Factors influencing exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months after birth. A case of Thika level five hospital, Kiambu county, Kenya
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life for optimal growth, development and health. Breastfeeding should continue up to two years or more and nutritionally adequate, safe, and appropriately-fed complementary foods should be introduced at the age of six months to meet the evolving needs of the growing infant. Little evidence exists on factors that influence breastfeeding practices especially the practice or non-practice of exclusive breastfeeding for children from birth to six months of life. According to The World breastfeeding trends Initiative, 2012, exclusive breastfeeding rates at less than six months are currently at 32%. Kenya targets to increase exclusive breastfeeding rate from 32% to 80% by 2017.However, various factors associated with sub-optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices have been identified in various settings. The purpose of this study was to establish how these factors influence breastfeeding practices of children for the first six months of life. The study was be guided by the following objectives; 1.To establish the influence of socioeconomic characteristics on exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months after birth.2. To establish the influence of socio-cultural factors on exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months after birth. 3.To establish the influence of maternal characteristics on exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months after birth. The study adopted a cross sectional survey design. The study targeted children from birth to six months of age at the Maternal and Child Health Clinic. A sample of 183 respondents was used for this study. Data was collected using a researcher administered questionnaire and focus group discussion guide. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences was used for data analysis. Results were presented using tables. Of the sampled children 51% were males while 49% were females. The percentage of mothers with secondary education was the highest at 60.5%. Family contributions were the main source of income for households at 65.5%. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding was 28%. Maternal perception on insufficient milk production was responsible for 22.8% of the mothers that had given complementary feeds based on 24hour dietary recall. Advice of relatives and neighbors was also reported by 7.3% for the cases of early introduction of complementary feeding since birth. Married mothers however reported higher exclusive breastfeeding rates (71%) than single mothers (69.6%). Mothers with a higher number of children reported higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding. The exclusive breastfeeding rate at Thika Level Five Hospital(28%) is below the level recommended by WHO(90%) and below the national level(32%). Recommendations were that breastfeeding promotion messages by the health sector focus on alleviating the misconceptions mothers have on exclusive breastfeeding, establishment of mother to mother support groups and more facility based research to address specific needs of mothers. The findings and recommendations will be shared with stakeholders such as The Nutrition Steering Committee of Kiambu County and the Ministry of Health.