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Social networks and infant feeding in Oaxaca, Mexico

Authors


Amber Wutich, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, PO Box 872402, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA. E-mail: amber.wutich@asu.edu

Abstract

The health benefits of delaying the introduction of complementary foods to infants' diets are widely known. Many studies have shown that mothers with the support of close social network members are more compliant with medical recommendations for infant feeding. In our study, we examine the effects of a broader spectrum of network members (40 people) on mothers' infant feeding decisions. The survey was conducted in Oaxaca, Mexico as part of a follow-up to a nationwide Mexican Social Security Institute survey of infant health. Sixty mothers were interviewed from a stratified random sample of the original respondents. Multivariate tests were used to compare the efficacy of network-level variables for predicting the introduction of 36 foods into infants' diets, when compared with respondent-level variables. The study yields four findings. First, network-level variables were better predictors of the timing of food introduction than socio-demographic variables. Second, mothers with more indigenous networks delayed the introduction of some grains (oatmeal, cereal, noodle soup, rice) and processed pork products (sausage and ham) to the infant's diet longer than mothers with less indigenous networks. Third, mothers who had stronger ties to their networks delayed the introduction of rice and processed pork products (sausage and ham) to the infant's diet longer than mothers who had weaker ties to their networks. Fourth, mothers who heeded the advice of distant network members introduced some grains (rice and cereal) earlier than mothers who did not heed the advice of distant network members.

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