The aim of this study was to explore factors associated with maternal infant and young child feeding motivation in urban and rural Kenya. We conducted 18 focus group discussions with mothers of children 0 to 23 months of age and healthcare workers. The data were transcribed, translated, and explored following the principles of content analysis. We first explored and coded the data inductively and categorized it according to emerging themes representing the most relevant topics for young child feeding. After this, these themes were theorized into an explanatory framework. Finally, the results yielded seven themes integrated into self‐determination theory’s three basic motivation‐building pillars: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We found that maternal intrahousehold autonomy on child feeding was substantial. However, this autonomy was lost for a period of time while in close contact with the healthcare staff. The authority of the healthcare workers was at its peak when the child was born and faded gradually as the child grew. Building maternal competence is important for child‐feeding outcomes, but our data showed that the health education methods used by the healthcare workers were inadequate to improve maternal to improve the motivation. The competence of Kenyan healthcare workers should be improved in the area of complementary feeding counseling, and they should be trained to provide practical and emotional support as a way of increasing maternal motivation on infant and child feeding.