Mixed blessings: A qualitative exploration of mothers' experience of child care and feeding in the rapidly urbanizing city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Many studies have drawn attention to the vital role mothers have in safeguarding the health and nutritional wellbeing of their children. However, little is known about mothers' experiences and the challenges they face in fulfilling this role in rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa. This study aims to explore child care and feeding practices of mothers with children under five years of age in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This qualitative study was conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. A total of thirty-six interviews were conducted with purposively selected participants. All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and translated for analysis. We used a thematic analysis approach, which was guided by a resilience framework. The findings are presented as three major themes. 1) 'Mixed blessings-balancing motherhood's expectations'. While mothers identified positively with the social recognition and sense of fulfillment of being a 'good mother', they were ambivalent/torn about earning the necessary income from outside work and fulfilling their duties at home. 2) 'Instabilities due to rampant urban sprawl'. While women expressed a keen desire to balance work and motherhood, the disintegrating social capital, due to large in-migration, market fluctuations and abrupt/forced resettlements to new housing units had left mothers without support for childcare, stressed and exhausted. 3) 'Anchored by faith: a source of resilience to cope with adversities'. In the face of the multiple adversities, mothers cited their strong faith as their most reliable foundation for their resilience. In summary, the societal and environmental changes accompanying the rapid urbanization in low income settings makes combining child care and working outside the home very challenging for mothers. As a result they suffer from fatigue and feelings of isolation. Efforts to improve child feeding and care in urban low-income settings need to consider context appropriate strategies that support mothers with small children.


  • Hanna Y Berhane
  • Eva-Charlotte Ekström
  • Magnus Jirström
  • Yemane Berhane
  • Christopher Turner
  • Beatrix W Alsanius
  • Jill Trenholm
External organisations
  • Addis Continental Institute of Public Health
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Uppsala University
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0207685
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch