This briefing paper demonstrates how childcare is influenced by a range of household actors in Sierra Leone, and sets out what efforts to prevent malnutrition can do to engage with this reality.
- Promoting good child nutrition must go beyond dissemination of infant and young child feeding practices to engage with key influences on mothers’ behaviour.
- ‘Exclusive’ breastfeeding is rarely exclusive, with traditional remedies frequently given to infants.
- Decision-making around food distribution, household finances and when to stop breastfeeding is deeply gendered, influencing the ability of women to act on knowledge about appropriate feeding practices.
- These social conditions that sustain malnutrition are exacerbated during ‘lean seasons’, when there are greater labour demands, compromised sanitation, and limited coping mechanisms.