A Community-Based Prospective Cohort Study of Exclusive Breastfeeding in Central Nepal
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Background: Existing information on breastfeeding in low income countries such as Nepal has been largely derived from cross-sectional demographic health surveys. This study investigated exclusive breastfeeding rates, and compared the duration of exclusive breastfeeding between rural and urban mothers in central Nepal using an alternate cohort methodology. Methods: A community-based prospective cohort study was conducted among 639 recently delivered mothers representative of the Kaski district of Nepal. Breastfeeding information was obtained at birth (n = 639), 4 weeks (n = 639), 12 weeks (n = 615; 96.2%) and 22 weeks (n = 515; 80.6%) through repeated interviews using validated questionnaires. Risk of cessation of exclusive breastfeeding was assessed by Cox regression analysis. Results: The great majority of women received breastfeeding information (74%) and were encouraged to breastfeed by health personnel or family members (81%). Although nearly all mothers (98%) breastfed up to six months, the reported exclusive breastfeeding rate declined rapidly from 90.9% at birth to 29.7% at 22 weeks. Urban women experienced significantly shorter (p = 0.02) exclusive breastfeeding duration (mean 104.5, 95% CI 95.8 to113.1 days) and were more likely to cease exclusive breastfeeding (hazard ratio (HR) 1.28, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.60) than their rural counterparts (mean 144.7, 95% CI 132.3 to 157.1 days). Breastfeeding problem (HR 2.07, 95% CI 1.66 to2.57) and caesarean delivery (HR 1.88, 95% CI 1.36 to 2.62) were also significantly associated with exclusive breastfeeding cessation.Conclusions: Despite the almost universal practice of breastfeeding, the reported exclusive breastfeeding rates declined substantially over time. Exclusive breastfeeding up to six months was more common in rural than urban areas of central Nepal. Urban mothers also exclusively breastfed shorter than rural mothers.
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