Objective: To explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing child feeding practices among rural caregivers in Rwanda.
Design: In-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded. Data were analysed inductively using thematic analysis.
Setting: Rutsiro District, Western Province, Rwanda.
Participants: Participants included twenty-four mothers (median age 32 years) with children 6-23 months old.
Results: We identified five key themes: (i) breast-feeding practices and role in food supply; (ii) family v. children's food preparations; (iii) food classification systems and their influence on child feeding decisions; (iv) child feeding during diarrhoeal episodes and (v) influence of poverty on child feeding practices and child care.
Conclusions: Mothers' infant and young child feeding decisions are informed by information both from health workers and from traditional/own knowledge. Navigating through this information sometimes creates conflicts which results in less than optimal child feeding. A nutrition educational approach that is cognisant of maternal perceptions should be employed to improve child feeding practices. Efforts to improve child feeding practices must be complemented by programmes that enhance household economic opportunities and access to foods.
Keywords: Child feeding; Perceptions; Qualitative analysis; Rutsiro; Rwanda; Undernutrition.