Feeding patterns of underweight children in rural Malawi given supplementary fortified spread at home

Authors

  • Valerie L. Flax,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Public Health, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland,
    2. Department of International Health, Tampere University Medical School, Tampere, Finland,
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  • Ulla Ashorn,

    1. School of Public Health, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland,
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    • 1

      Present address: Ulla Ashorn, School of Public Health, FIN-33014 Tampere University, Finland;

  • John Phuka,

    1. Department of International Health, Tampere University Medical School, Tampere, Finland,
    2. College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi,
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  • Kenneth Maleta,

    1. College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi,
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      Kenneth Maleta, Community Health Department, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, P/Bag 360, Blantyre 3, Malawi;

  • Mark J. Manary,

    1. Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA, and
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      Mark J. Manary, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8116, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. John Phuka and Per Ashorn same as corresponding author.

  • Per Ashorn

    1. Department of International Health, Tampere University Medical School, Tampere, Finland,
    2. Department of Paediatrics, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland
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Ms Valerie L. Flax, Department of International Health, Tampere University Medical School, Finn-Medi 3 Building, FIN-33014 Tampere University, Tampere, Finland. E-mail: valerie.flax@uta.fi

Abstract

Fortified spread (FS), containing dry food particles embedded in edible fat, offers a convenient means for nutrition rehabilitation. To describe how caregivers feed FS to their undernourished children at home, and how FS use affects other feeding patterns, we conducted a longitudinal observational study in rural Malawi. Sixteen 6- to 17-month-old underweight children (weight-for-age z-score < −2.0; −3.0 < weight-for-height z-score < 0) received FS for 12 weeks. Twelve-hour observations were conducted before supplementation and during weeks 1, 4, 8 and 12 of FS use. FS was fed to children about two times per day; each serving was 15–20 g. The spread was first used mainly alone as a between-meal snack, and then became integrated into the typical complementary feeding pattern by being mixed with porridge. Introduction of FS reduced the number of plain porridge meals, but did not decrease the total number of meals or breastfeeds per day and did not change the daily mean time caregivers spent on feeding. Children accepted the FS well, but more FS was wasted when it was offered mixed with porridge than when given alone (23.6% vs. 1.2%, 95% CI for the difference 13.2% to 31.6%). FS supplementation is feasible for community-based nutrition interventions in Malawi because it easily becomes part of the feeding routine, does not replace other foods and does not take extra caregiver time. To limit wastage, caregivers should be advised to serve FS plain or to mix it with only a small quantity of porridge.

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