Impact of maternal education about complementary feeding and provision of complementary foods on child growth in developing countries
Chinese studies indicate that the growth of rural infants and children lags behind that of their urban counterparts after 4 mo of age and that the gap is widening. However, the rural areas are home to >85% of China's 300 million children. Clearly, culturally appropriate rural complementary feeding interventions are needed to close the growth and health gaps. After a 1990 survey of infants in rural Sichuan confirmed that poor infant feeding practices rather than inadequate household food resources were responsible for the growth faltering, a year-long community-based pilot nutrition education intervention (n congruent with 250 infants each in Education and Control groups) was undertaken in four townships. The goal was to improve infant growth by improving infant feeding practices. Features of the intervention included the training and mobilizing of village nutrition educators who made monthly growth monitoring and complementary feeding counseling visits to all pregnant women and families with infants born during the intervention in the study villages. After 1 y, the Education group mothers showed significantly higher nutrition knowledge and better reported infant feeding practices than their Control group counterparts. Also, the Education group infants were significantly heavier and longer, but only at 12 mo (weight-for-age -1.17 vs. -1.93; P = 0.004; height-for-age -1.32 vs. -1.96; P = 0.022), had higher breast-feeding rates overall (83% vs. 75%; P = 0.034) and lower anemia rates (22% vs. 32%; P = 0.008) than the Control group infants. We conclude that these methods have potential for adaptation and development to other rural areas in the county, province and nation.