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Acceptability and feasibility of infant-feeding options: experiences of HIV-infected mothers in the World Health Organization Kesho Bora mother-to-child transmission prevention (PMTCT) trial in Burkina Faso

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In Burkina Faso, prolonged breastfeeding with introduction of ritual fluids from birth is a deep-seated norm. We explored HIV-infected mothers' views and experiences of the acceptability and feasibility of the World Health Organization's recommended infant-feeding options within a mother-to-child-transmission prevention trial. A qualitative study was conducted on 17 formula-feeding and 19 breastfeeding mothers, from a larger cohort of 51 eligible HIV-infected women, consenting to participate in separate focus group discussions in early post-partum. Mothers opted for breastfeeding essentially out of fear of family rejection. Most of them were afraid of denigration for disrespecting tradition if they formula-fed or being suspected of HIV infection. Achieving exclusive breastfeeding remained a difficult challenge as they engaged in a continuous struggle with close elders to avoid fluid feeding. Additional stress and fatigue were fed by their perception of a high transmission risk through breast milk. Exclusive formula-feeding seemed easier to implement, especially as formula was provided free of charge. Formula-feeding mothers more frequently had a supportive partner, a strong personality and lived in better socio-economic conditions than breastfeeding mothers (76% had education and electricity supply vs. 42%, respectively). Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months remains the most appropriate option for many HIV-infected mothers in sub-Saharan Africa. Its acceptability and feasibility urgently need to be improved by promoting it as the best feeding option for all infants. Other crucial interventions are the promotion of voluntary counselling and testing for couples, and greater partner involvement in infant-feeding counselling.

Keywords: HIV infection/transmission; West Africa; exclusive breastfeeding; formula feeding; infant-feeding choice; qualitative studies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: IRD, 911 Avenue Agropolis, F-34394 Montpellier Cedex 5, France, and 2: Centre MURAZ, Avenue Mamadou KONATE, Bobo-Dioulasso 01, Burkina Faso

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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