Association of Stunting with Socio-Demographic Factors and Feeding Practices among Children under Two Years in Informal Settlements in Gauteng, South Africa

Zandile Kubeka, Perpetua Modjadji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Despite improvements in childhood undernutrition through integrated nutritional programs in South Africa, stunting among children remains persistent, and is attributed to poor socio-demographic status. This context has been implicated in disrupting mothers’ decisions regarding effective infant feeding, ultimately meaning that children’s nutritional demands remain unmet. In view of this, we conducted a cross-sectional study to determine the association between socio-demographic factors and infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices and stunting among children under two years receiving primary health care in informal settlements in Gauteng, South Africa. A validated questionnaire was used to assess mothers’ socio-demographic status and feeding practices using WHO core indicators. Stunting was defined as length-for age z-scores (LAZ) below −2 standard deviation, computed using WHO Anthro software version using age, sex, and anthropometric measurements of children. Univariate and multivariate analyses were stratified by stunting to determine the relationship with socio-demographic, infant, and IYCF factors using STATA 17. The prevalence of stunting was 16% among surveyed children under two years (with a mean age of 8 ± 5 months) living in poor socio-demographic households. Poor feeding practices were characterized by delayed initiation of breastfeeding (58%), sub-optimal exclusive breastfeeding (29%), discontinued breastfeeding (44%), early introduction of solid foods (41%), and low dietary diversity (97%). Significant differences in terms of child’s age, monthly household income, and ever being breastfed were observed (Chi square test and univariate analysis). After controlling for potential confounders, stunting was significantly associated with child’s age [12–23 months: AOR = 0.35, 95% CI: 0.16–0.76], and monthly household income [ZAR 3000–ZAR 5000: AOR = 0.47, 95% CI: 0.26–0.86]. Despite the few aforementioned socio-demographic and IYCF factors associated with stunting, this study reiterates stunting as the commonest poor nutritional status indicator among children under two years, suggesting the presence of chronic undernutrition in these poverty-stricken informal settlements. A multisectoral approach to address stunting should be context-specific and incorporate tailor-made interventions to promote optimal infant-feeding practices. Conducting future nutrient assessments focusing on children is imperative.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1280
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • South Africa
  • children
  • feeding practices
  • informal settlements
  • socio-demographic factors
  • stunting


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