Background: Lactating mothers from low-income settings are considered as a nutritionally vulnerable group. Due to the nursing process, mothers are subjected to nutritional stresses. Frequent pregnancies followed by lactation increase the health risk of mothers resulting in a high maternal mortality.
Objective: To assess the feeding practices, nutritional status and associated factors of lactating women from Samre Woreda, South Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia.
Design: Community based cross-sectional survey
Setting: Four kebeles of Samre Woreda (2 urban & 2 rural kebeles)
Methods: Four hundred lactating mothers were recruited from 400 randomly selected households. Data on socio-demographic characteristics, maternal characteristics, feeding practices, frequency of foods eaten and dietary diversity was collected using a pre-tested and structured questionnaire. Anthropometric measurements were taken from each mother using calibrated equipments and standardized techniques. A one-day weighed food record was also collected from randomly selected sub sample (n=60) of mothers. The nutrient and energy content of foods consumed by the mothers was calculated by using ESHA Food Processor and the Ethiopian Food Composition Tables. To investigate the socio-economic and demographic factors affecting the nutritional status of the women, logistic regression was used. ANOVA and t-test were also used to see if there was a mean difference in nutritional status among the lactating mothers.
Results: Majority (71.2%) of the participants did not take additional meals during lactation. The median dietary diversity score of the study participants was 5 out of 14 food groups. The prevalence of underweight, chronic energy deficiency and stunting were 31%, 25% and 2.2% respectively. Using logistic regression model, factors significantly associated with the nutritional status of the study participants (as determined by BMI and MUAC) were size of farm land, length of years of marriage, maize cultivation, frequency of antenatal care visit and age of breastfeeding child.
Conclusions: The feeding practices, dietary intakes and nutritional status of the lactating women were short of the national and international recommendations. Therefore, sustained health and nutrition education is recommended to the women and their families and communities on increased food intake, proper dietary practices and dietary diversification during lactation in order to improve health and nutrition outcomes of lactating women.