Infant malnutrition treatment in Kenya: Health worker and breastfeeding peer supporter experiences

Chabeda S, Oluoch D, Mwangome M, Jones C
Matern Child Nutr. 2021;17

Permenent descriptor

Acute malnutrition in infants under 6 months (u6m) is increasingly recognised as a global public health problem. The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for inpatient nutritional rehabilitation of infants u6m is re-lactation: the re-establishment of exclusive breastfeeding. Evidence suggests these guidelines are rarely followed in many low-income settings. Two studies of infant nutritional rehabilitation undertaken in three public hospitals in coastal Kenya employed breastfeeding peer supporters (BFPSs) to facilitate WHO guideline implementation. To explore the acceptability of the strategy to health workers (HWs) and the BFPSs, in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 HWs and five BFPSs in the three study hospitals. The HWs reported that the presence of the BFPSs changed the way infant nutritional rehabilitation was managed, increasing efforts at relactation and decreasing reliance on supplemental milk. BFPSs were said to help address staff shortages and had dedicated time to support and assist the mothers. Key to the success of the BFPSs was the social relationships they were able to establish with the mothers due to the similarity in their experiences and backgrounds. Despite the success of the BFPSs, human resource management and infrastructure challenges remained. BFPSs can successfully be employed to facilitate the implementation of the WHO guidelines for the nutritional rehabilitation of acutely malnourished infants u6m in hospitals in Kenya, establishing supportive social relationships and trust with the mothers of the acutely malnourished infants and helping to address the issue of human resource shortages.