Qualitative, longitudinal exploration of coping strategies and factors facilitating infant and young child feeding practices among mothers in rural Rwanda

Jeanine Ahishakiye*, Lenneke Vaandrager, Inge D. Brouwer, Maria Koelen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mothers in low-income countries face many challenges to appropriately feed their children in the first year such as poverty, food insecurity and high workloads. However, even in the lowest income families there are mothers who succeed to feed their children according to the recommendations. In this paper, we explored the coping strategies that facilitate appropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices among rural Rwandan mothers from birth to one year of a child’s life. Methods: This qualitative longitudinal study recruited a purposive sample of 17 mothers who followed the infant and young child feeding recommendations (IYCF). They were selected from a larger study of 36 mothers. In-depth interviews were conducted with mothers of the total group (36 mothers) within the first week, at 4th, 6th, 9th and 12th months postpartum. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically. Results: Coping strategies included improving mothers’ own diet for adequate breastmilk production, prioritizing child feeding over livelihood chores, livelihood diversification and mothers’ anticipatory behaviors such as preparing child’s food in advance. Some of those coping strategies were shifting overtime depending on the development of the children. Personal factors such as breastfeeding self-efficacy, religious beliefs and perceived benefits of breastfeeding were among the facilitating factors. Additionally, social support that mothers received from family members, other mothers in the community, Community Health Workers (CHWs) and health professionals played an important role. Conclusion: In challenging contextual conditions, mothers manage to follow the recommended breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices through the interplay of active coping strategies, feeling to be in control and social support. Nutrition promotion interventions that aim to improve IYCF should consider strengthening mothers’ capability in gaining greater control of their IYCF practices and the factors facilitating their appropriate IYCF practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021


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