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A qualitative analysis of infant and young child feeding practices in rural Rwanda

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2020

Theogene Dusingizimana
School of Food and Advanced Technology, Massey University, Palmerston North4442, New Zealand Department of Food Science and Technology, College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, University of Rwanda, Musanze, Rwanda
Janet L Weber
School of Food and Advanced Technology, Massey University, Palmerston North4442, New Zealand
Thiagarajah Ramilan
School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Per O Iversen
Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway Department of Hematology, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway Division of Human Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellebosh University, Tygerberg, South Africa
Louise Brough
School of Food and Advanced Technology, Massey University, Palmerston North4442, New Zealand
E-mail address:



To explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing child feeding practices among rural caregivers in Rwanda.


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.


Rutsiro District, Western Province, Rwanda.


Participants included twenty-four mothers (median age 32 years) with children 6–23 months old.


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.


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.

Research paper
© The Authors 2020

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