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Knowledge and practice of exclusive breastfeeding among mothers in a rural population in south eastern Nigeria

U Agu
MC Agu


Background: Exclusive breast feeding has been recommended worldwide as optimal feeding option for human infants. Despite its numerous advantages, most lactating mothers are not practicing it.
Objective: To assess the knowledge of rural women of exclusive breast feeding, to determine their practices of it and factors that affect this practice.
Methods: Cross sectional study of 254 women attending infant welfare clinics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital substations at Umunya and Neni.
Results: Eighty seven percent (87.0%) of the mothers had good knowledge of exclusive breastfeeding but only fifty three percent (53.6%) were practicing exclusive breastfeeding. Sixty three percent (63.0%) of the women were breastfeeding exclusively at birth but the rates had dropped to 30.5% at ages of four to six months. The result showed that 76.4% initiated breastfeed within one hour of delivery. Marital status significantly affected the practice of exclusive breast feeding with less number of single mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding. Post natal support by health workers was found to significantly influence mothers initiation of breastfeeding. Mothers with more antenatal visits practiced exclusive breast feeding more. Maternal age and educational level did not affect the practice of exclusive breast feeding.
Conclusion: Practice of exclusive breast feeding was not commensurate with mothers’ knowledge of exclusive breastfeeding. Education and support to lactating mothers by health workers should be encouraged.

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eISSN: 1119-0388