Adolescents having unprotected heterosexual intercourse are at risk of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy. Therefore teenage pregnancy increases the risk of HIV infection and the virus is often passed on from the mother to the baby. This is called mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT). A pregnant woman living with HIV can pass on the virus to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and through breastfeeding. Adolescent pregnancy, occurring in girls aged 10–19 years, remains a serious health and social problem worldwide, and has been associated with numerous risk factors evident in the young people's family, peer, school, and neighbourhood contexts (World Health Organisation (WHO), 2011). These factors include: lack of knowledge about mother-to-child-transmission. When a teenager is pregnant and deciding whether to bottle feed or breastfeed her baby, there are many factors that influence that decision. It is important that we take particular factors into consideration when trying to educate a teen mom. Little is known about how infant feeding decisions are made among teenage mothers, particularly in South Africa. A qualitative method of research is followed in this study to enable a view into the personal experiences of the participants regarding the choices that they had make of whether to breastfeed or not. Feelings about infant feeding methods start to form well before pregnancy. However, many pregnant teens do not actually make the decision to breastfeed or bottle feed until late in their pregnancy, or sometimes until after they deliver their baby. The sample was drawn from 12 pregnant teens enrolled in a childbirth education class offered by a clinic in Gauteng, South Africa. Through interpersonal contact with the teenage mothers, using a narrative approach, the participants was able to narrate their resolution to feeding options stories, which allowed the researcher to take a step into their lives in trying to understand their infant feeding methods and the aftermath thereof as they continued with their lives. Although this study is limited by the small sample size and having recruited from a single program, it offers an intimate view of the breastfeeding practices that may be reflective of a largely minority population of low-income teen mothers in South Africa.
Keywords: Adolescent pregnancy; mother-to child-transmission; infant feeding options; childbirth education; teenage mothers