Statement of the problem. Inappropriate complementary feeding practice has been identified as the major cause of malnutrition of young children in the developing world. The principal goal of this study is to examine whether an educational intervention can change caretakers' knowledge, attitudes and feeding practices thereby improving infants' diet, growth, nutrition and health.
Methods. Eight townships in Laishui County, China were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. A total of 599 infants were enrolled when they were 2 to 4 months old and followed until 12 months of age. Enhanced weaning food recipes and educational messages were disseminated to the families enrolled in the intervention through trained primary healthcare providers. Questionnaire surveys and anthropometric measurements were taken when the infants were 2-4 months, 6, 9 and 12 months old. Blood samples were collected at 6 and 12 months.
Results. Caretakers in the intervention group had significantly higher scores than the control group in knowledge, attitudes, self efficacy, subjective norms and feeding behaviors. Infants in the intervention group received a broader variety of weaning foods and consumed all food groups more frequently.
Infants in the intervention group gained 0.24 Kg more in weight (95% CI: 0.02-0.46 Kg) and 0.69 cm more in length (95% CI: 0.1–1.28 cm) than controls. Compared to the control group, the intervention group had 5.06 g/L higher hemoglobin (95% CI: 0.83, 9.29 g/L), 0.3 mg/L higher zinc levels (95% CI: 0.02, 0.58 mg/L), 0.51 times lower risk of anemia (95% CI: 0.30, 0.85), 0.55 times lower risk of diarrhea (95% CI: 0.37, 0.82), 0.54 times lower risk of fever (95% CI: 0.37, 0.79), and 0.59 times lower risk of cough (95% CI: 0.36, 0.95).
Conclusions. The findings from this study provide promising evidence about the impact of the educational intervention on caretakers' behavior change and infants' diet, nutrition, growth and health. It is feasible and appealing to utilize existing resources to address the infant feeding problems.