Exclusive Breastfeeding and Malaria in Early Infancy: Experience from Benin City, Nigeria
Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in African children including infants while the roles of exclusive breastfeeding in the prevention of infections and protection against several common childhood morbidities are widely acknowledged. To study the role of exclusive breastfeeding on the incidence of malaria in early infancy, a facility based analytical case control study was carried out at the Paediatric facilities of the University of Benin teaching Hospital (UBTH) Benin City between August 2007 and September 2008. The study involved 399 mother/baby pairs. Two hundred and forty three (60.9%) of the 399 mothers practised exclusive breastfeeding as against 156 (39.1%) who did not. Only 41 (10.3%) of the 399 infants had malaria in early infancy. Of the 243 infants who were exclusively breastfed, 22 (9.1%) had malaria in comparison with 19 (12.2%) of the 156 that were not exclusively breastfed that had malaria in early infancy. No significant association therefore existed between exclusive breastfeeding and incidence of malaria in early infancy. The incidence of malaria in early infancy is low but it is even lower in children exclusively breastfed. This coupled with other gains of exclusive breastfeeding. Its practice should be encouraged and strengthened.