South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Breastfeeding pattern, anthropometry and health status of infants attending child welfare clinics of a teaching hospital in Nigeria

AU Ukegbu, EU Ebenebe, PO Ukegbu


Objective: To determine the breastfeeding pattern and its relationship with the physical growth and health status of infants aged 0–24 weeks.
Design and setting: A prospective cohort study was carried out at three comprehensive health centres of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Anambra State (Nigeria) from September 2006 to June 2007. The feeding pattern, body weight, length and morbidity of 228 infants were assessed at birth, 6, 10, 14, 20 and 24 weeks when they visited the child welfare clinics for routine immunisations or on appointment. The infants were recruited from the immunisation registers by a systematic random sampling method. Based on their current feeding pattern during the period under study, infants were classified into exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) and non-exclusive breastfeeding (non-EBF) groups. Data analysis was carried out using SPSS and Epi Info statistical computer software. A probability value (p-value) of less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results: The EBF rate declined progressively from 64.9% at birth to 37.3% at 24 weeks of age. Maternal older age, multiparity and delivery at a government health facility were positively associated with higher rates of EBF (p < 0.05). Only 110 (48.2%) babies were put to the breast immediately (≤ 1 hour) after delivery. The numbers that received colostrum and prelacteal feed were 118 (82.5%) and 59 (25.9%), respectively. On-demand breastfeeding was more popular than timed feeding (95.5% vs 7.5%; p < 0.05). At 24 weeks of age EBF males and females achieved a better and more rapid growth in weight and length compared to those in the non-EBF group (p = 0.000). Episodes of diarrhoea and fever were significantly associated with non-EBF (p = 0.000).
Conclusion: The study revealed that EBF had a positive effect on the physical growth and health status of infants, but the rate of EBF was low. It is suggested that activities that promote appropriate breastfeeding practices should be targeted at mothers and locations in which poor breastfeeding practices exist.

Keywords: breastfeeding pattern; anthropometry; health status; infants
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