Implications of methodological differences in measuring the rates of exclusive breastfeeding in Nepal: findings from literature review and cohort study
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BACKGROUND: Correct measurement and continuous monitoring of exclusive breastfeeding are essential to promote exclusive breastfeeding. Measuring exclusive breastfeeding is a complex issue as rates can vary according to the definition, measurement period, questions asked, and infant's age. This article reviewed the methodology of reporting exclusive breastfeeding in Nepal, and compared exclusive breastfeeding rates using data from a cohort study undertaken in western Nepal. METHODS: A literature review was first conducted on studies published during 2000-2014. In our cohort study, 735 mother-infant pairs were recruited within the first month postpartum and followed up during the fourth and sixth months. RESULTS: The majority of studies in Nepal, including national surveys, used the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended definition (only breastmilk with the exception of medicine and vitamin syrup), and the most common measurement period was a 24-h recall. Our data demonstrated that the exclusive breastfeeding rate during the sixth month was 8.9% using the recall-since-birth method but was 18.7% using the 24-h recall method. Substantial differences in rates were also found during the first (66.3% vs 83.9%) and fourth months (39.2% vs 61.1%). CONCLUSION: We found that recent studies reporting exclusive breastfeeding in Nepal varied considerably in methodology. The most commonly used measurement, the 24-h recall, leads to over-estimation of the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding when compared to the recall-since-birth method. A common standard of reporting exclusive breastfeeding is clearly needed for evidence-based decision making.
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