Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Mehta, Sudha Wadhwa

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Home Economics


Infants--Nutrition; Pregnancy--Nutritional aspects; Infants--Jamaica--St. James; Breast feeding


The purpose of this study was to investigate the infant feeding practices in St. James, Jamaica, West Indies. Specifically the role of the supplementary feeding program in government supported clinics on the infant feeding practices and the nutrition of the pregnant and lactating mothers was investigated. The socio-economic and cultural factors affecting the methods used in infant feeding were also explored. A questionnaire was developed and the data was collected during a personal interview in the summer of 1980. The sample consisted of 156 mothers ranging in age from 13-44 years who had six month to 2 year old children and attended the Maternal and Child Health Clinics. There were three types of clinics all of which supplied similar types of supplementary foods for the mothers and their infants. They ' also provided immunization and nutrition education. At all the three clinics no specific method was used for issuing the supplements or the selection of recipients for the supplements. The diet of the pregnant and lactating mother consisted mainly of the foods that were eaten as part of the basic diet. Additional foods were used by 65 percent and 10 percent of the mothers during pregnancy and lactation, respectively. Milk was one of the foods added by the majority of the mothers to their diet. In spite of the belief that mothers tend to restrict foods during pregnancy and lactation due to superstitions or taboos,only 11.5 percent of the sample reported avoiding certain foods during pregnancy due to nausea. A similar number of mothers avoided specific foods during lactation as these mothers thought that vomiting and diarrhea may occur in the baby, A significant relationship was found between the place of delivery and the day breast feeding was started. Thus, 84 percent of the mothers who were delivered at the hospital started breast feeding on the first day. In spite of the early initiation of breast feeding, the combination of breast and bottle feeding was the most popular method of feeding used by the mothers. Many reasons were given for the introduction of the bottle, the main one being to get the child accustomed to the bottle. A significant correlation was found between the income and the number of bottles owned by the mother. Estimation showed that breast feeding was stopped by the age of six months by 32.9 percent of the mothers and by the age of nine months by 66.5 percent of the mothers. The formula selection used for feeding was influenced mainly by the grandmother. "Olac" was the most popular brand name formula used by Jamaican mothers. Porridge was generally the first semi-solid food given by most of the mothers, and was prepared by 51.3 percent of the mothers thin enough to be given via the bottle. Protein foods were introduced between four and six months of age and 33 percent of the mothers restricted fish because it was believed to cause tooth decay. Bush tea was used by 73 percent of the mothers to feed the sick child at the advice of the grandmother. According to the Harvard standard for birthweight, approximately 12.6 percent of the babies had low birthweight. Low birthweight and the method of feeding were the most important determinants of the number of times the babies got ill. The number of illnesses were higher for the 100 combined breast-fed and bottle-fed babies than for the babies who were breast-fed only. It was found that only 10 percent of the babies suffered from mild malnutrition, 2 percent from moderate malnutrition, and only 1 percent suffered from severe malnutrition. Thus, the incidence of severe malnutrition in young children appears to be declining. This may be attributed to the availability of supplemental foods from the clinics. However, the dietary practices and beliefs of the Jamaican mothers do not seem to be significantly affected by the nutrition clinics but rather by the income level and the family belief.


Includes bibliographical references.


xi, 94 pages




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