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Background: Adequate early infant nutrition is essential for subsequent optimum growth and development of the child. Exclusive breastfeeding is the cornerstone of the best possible nutrition in early infancy.
Objective: To assess current breastfeeding practices in early infancy in Benin City and further progress ( if any) that may have been made in the realisation of optimal early infant feeding practices in the locale in the preceding decade.
Methods: A community-based household survey was carried out in three representative wards in Egor Local Government Area of Benin City, from June to September, 2009. Infant feeding practices were evaluated using pre-tested questionnaires on 1068 mothers of infants aged less than 12 months.
Result: Five hundred and forty-six (51.1%) infants were aged less than 6 months. The Ever Breastfed Rate was 100.0% while the Timely Suckling Rate was 35.5%. The Exclusive and Predominant Breastfeeding Rates were respectively 40.7% and 30.4% while the Bottle-feeding Rate was 32.2%. Most (98.4%) mothers had correct information about exclusive breastfeeding obtained mainly from antenatal clinics and immunization centres. Factors significantly associated with EBF were high maternal education (χ2 = 9.718; p = 0.045), high socioeconomic status (χ2 = 12.910; p = 0.012), increasing maternal age (χ2 = 14.777; p = 0.022), higher parity (χ2 = 15.212; p = 0.009), delivery in hospital (χ2 = 15.079; p = 0.020) and infant’s age (χ2 = 100.482; P = 0.0001).
Conclusions/Recommendations: Breastfeeding practices in Benin City have not improved much from what obtained a decade earlier. Greater emphasis on female education and socio-economic empowerment are advocated as tools for improvement. Reinvigoration of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative is also recommended to ensure continued health facility interface that would ensure community mobilisation and support for optimal breastfeeding.
Key Words: Breastfeeding, Practices, Early Infancy, Benin City