Background: Infant feeding is vital and a key determinant of good nutrition and health status, survival and development. Breast feeding is universal and socio-culturally acceptable method of child feeding. Breast milk is nutritionally balanced and provides immunity against diseases. However, breast milk can transmit HIV from mother to child. This has posed public health dilemma. A lot of work has been done on HIV including MTCT but there remains a dearth of information related to appropriate feeding for infants of mothers infected with HIV, especially in the African rural setting.
Objective: The study was aimed at assessing infant feeding practices and viable breast milk alternatives for infants born to HIV positive mothers and how the knowledge of MTCT influence the choice of such practices in a rural community in Northern Nigeria.
Method: Descriptive cross-sectional study design employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies was used. Stratified sampling was used to sample 5 health facilities out of 16 to be included in the study. 111 HIV positive mothers with children aged 0-12 months attending services in the sampled health facilities were randomly assigned numbers and systematically sampled to participate in the study.
Results: Maternal knowledge on MTCT of HIV was high (66.7%) in the study area. However, this had no association with maternal choice of infant feeding practice. The choice of alternative infant feeding practice was rather influenced by a number of factors among them; stigma and discrimination, belief about HIV transmission from mother to child (P=0.05) and HIV has no cure (P=0.03). Cow’s milk is the most preferred infant feeding option (99.1%) followed by commercial infant formula (96.4%).
Conclusion: The choice of infant feeding practice is not associated with level of maternal knowledge of MTCT of HIV. Commonly used infant feeding options include cow milk, porridge and commercial formula. World Health Organization guidelines on infant feeding in HIV recommends exclusive breast feeding to infants for six months.