Barriers to exclusive breastfeeding and nutritional status of non-exclusively breastfed infants in Eldoret municipality, Kenya
Wanyonyi, Mary Nekesa
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Despite its many advantages, the benefits of breast milk have been widely unknown to mothers. In many of the world's developing countries, water and other liquids are added to the baby's diet in the first months of life risking infection from harmful bacteria and other pathogens. In Kenya only 13% of children below six months are exclusively breastfed. High infant mortality rates associated with diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and poor responses to vaccinations result from lack of exclusive breastfeeding. It has been estimated that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life could reduce infant mortality rate by a remarkable 13%. Globally, the practice of mixed feeding is a major public health concern. This study aimed at assessing the practicability of WHO recommendations on exclusive breastfeeding by establishing barriers to the practice. Descriptive survey method was used. The study was carried out in Eldoret Municipality. The study population was selected using simple random sampling. The sample size was 296 mothers of children aged 0-6 months. Data were collected through the administration of questionnaires and structured interview schedules and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences and EPI Info. Chi-square statistic was used to test the null hypothesis. Anthropometric measures were used to assess the nutritional status of infants. Out of the 296 infants, only 15.5% were breastfed exclusively. The mean age of exclusively breastfed infants was 1.8 months as 36% of the infants were introduced to other foods by 2 months. Maternal knowledge of exclusive breastfeeding was low. According to the mothers' understanding, exclusive breastfeeding periods in months were as follows; 0-2 (51%), 2-4 (16%), 4-6 (10%) and other ages (23%). Malnutrition cases of underweight were 2.7%, wasting 9.3% and stunting 6.9 %. The major hindrance to exclusive breastfeeding was mothers' perception of insufficient breast milk production. The null hypothesis was rejected as there were many factors that hindered EBF practice, P = 0.004. These findings will form a basis of designing effective strategies to address barriers to exclusive breastfeeding.