1 University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
Background: Attaining recommended durations of exclusive breast feeding (EBF) are undermined by early complementary feeding practices. EBF rates vary substantially and fall below recommended durations across communities within Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti. The primary aim of this study was to describe and contrast patterns of early complementary feeding of young children from representative samples from the DR, Haiti, and Batey communities in the DR. Batey communities have a higher proportion of Haitian residents that other DR communities. Methods. The study used weighted Demographic and Health Survey data for (i) the DR from 2007 (n=608), (ii) Haiti from 2005-6 (n=553), and (iii) Bateys from 2007 (n=60). Each sample was composed of all children under six months of age whose caregivers were currently breastfeeding and who had responded to dietary questions on food consumption covering the previous 24 hours. Results: Children from Haiti were more likely to be exclusively breast fed than those from the DR, 41.6% vs. 10.1%; while at 13.2%, Batey children were more similar to the overall DR rate. Across groups, the largest percentage of children would be classified in the WHO “partially” breastfed category, with relatively few in the “predominately” breastfed category. Milk (non-breast) and infant formula consumption represented the food types most discrepant between the DR/Batey groups and Haiti, with Haiti reporting much lower levels. Haitian infants were more likely to receive baby cereals and porridges than both the DR and Batey samples. Discussion: Extensive early complementary feeding exists in each group considered. Patterns substantially varied between the two countries. Batey communities were most similar to overall DR patterns which may indicate a degree of acculturation. Further examination of predictors and causal factors for early complementary feeding across settings may inform health intervention efforts aimed at expanding early EBF.