Breastfeeding practices such as early initiation of breast milk and exclusive breastfeeding are key to the reduction of childhood morbidity and mortality. Despite the importance of these practices, rates of timely initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding remain suboptimal in many sub-Saharan countries. This study aimed to examine the determinants of early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding in the first 5 months in Malawi.
This study used the 2015–16 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey data. A total of 6351 children born during the last 24 months and 1619 children aged 0–5 months at the time of the survey were analyzed for early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding outcomes, respectively. Socio-demographic and socio-economic factors including individual, household and community-level factors were tested for association with early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding using logistic regression models.
The proportion of timely initiation of breast milk and exclusive breastfeeding were 76.9 and 61.2%, respectively. Delivering at a health facility (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.10, 2.87), vaginal delivery (aOR 3.15, 95% CI 2.40, 4.13), and singleton births (aOR 1.96, 95% CI 1.20, 3.21) were independent factors associated with the increased likelihood of timely initiation of breastfeeding. Age of children was associated with increased odds of exclusive breastfeeding, with children aged 3–5 months being less likely to be exclusively breastfed (aOR 0.24, 95% CI 0.18, 0.31).
Healthcare providers and programs aimed at increasing rates of early initiation of breastfeeding should take into consideration women at risk such as those giving birth through caesarean section, giving birth at home, and having multiple births. Further, women with children aged 3–5 months should be targeted with health promotion interventions for exclusive breastfeeding.