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1.1 Background of the study

In the first few years of life, some of the things that are critical for growth and development of children are good infant feeding and healthcare. As recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s fund, the optimal infant feeding practices of children involves exclusive feeding for the first 6 months after child delivery, which is then followed by sufficient complementary feeding coupled with breastfeeding until the child is at least 2 years old (Azubuike&Nkanginieme, 2012). The feeding pattern adopted by parents is required to provide the necessary macro and micronutrients needed for optimal growth and development of children. According to Geneva (2010), lack of exclusive breastfeeding has resulted to an estimation of about 1.3 million lives, are lost each year globally, and about 600,000 lives are been lost yearly as a result of mothers not continuing breastfeeding with the required complementary feeding. An essential factor between life and death for most children in developing countries (like Nigeria) is breastfeeding, but the present analysis shows that majority of Nigerian others (about 55%) are not well informed on the relevance of exclusive breastfeeding ( IITA; 2011). According to UNICEF (2008), under-nutrition is the principal factor responsible for about 50% of all the mortality among children in Nigeria.

The complete nutritional source for toddlers is known as breastfeeding because some of the components of breast milk are carbohydrate, proteins, essential fats and immunological factors required for toddlers to combat diseases and infections in the first two years of a child’s life. During the analysis of the strategies for child survival, it was discovered that the only most effective preventive measures in reducing the rate of mortality among children is exclusive breastfeeding in the first half of the infant’s first year and continued breastfeeding from 6 to 24 months. Exclusive breastfeeding has the potential of saving 1.3 million lives of children annually (Jones, Steketee, Black, Bhutta, and Morris, 2008). Though, it has been revealed by campaigners of breastfeeding that there is a global degeneration in the act of breastfeeding among nursing mothers. This is particularly more pronounced in developing countries (Leon-Cava, Lutter, Ross and Martin, 2012). A very high percentage of mothers chose not to breastfeed regardless all the endorsement of experts on the importance of breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Going by population studies in developing countries, it has been shown that the greatest risk of nutritional deficiency and growth retardation occurs in children between 3 and 15 months of age, a period noted for suboptimal breastfeeding (Jones et al., 2008)

Appropriate complementary feeding requires not only introducing foods too early or too late to infants but also feeding infants and young children between 6 and 24 months foods considered safe and nutritionally adequate without discontinuing breastfeeding (Frongillo, 2006). It was discovered by Geneva (2010) that only 35% if toddlers are breastfed in the first 6 months of their lives despite the unmatched benefits of infant feeding.  A study has shown from a research in a northern state in Nigeria (Kano) that the percentage of women who exclusively breastfeed their babies for 4 weeks, 12 weeks and 24 weeks after their last delivery are 26%, 24.8%, and 22% respectively, this reveals that there is decrease in the population of mothers that breastfeed that infants between the first 6 months (Iliyasu, Kabir, Abubakar and Galadanchi, 2005). A similar study from southern part of Nigeria also stated that over 90% of mothers had the sufficient knowledge of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), only 21.2% of the mothers practiced exclusive breastfeeding for all their babies and about half of the population (51.6%) had never practiced exclusive breastfeeding with any of their children (Uchendu, Ikefuna, and Emodi, 2009).

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