1.1 Background of the Study
Breastfeeding is unequaled way of providing ideal food for the health, growth and development of infants and most natural way of feeding them in all traditions. It is an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of the mother. Human milk is the most appropriate of all available types of milk, that is uniquely adapted for infant nutrition as it components consistently adopt to the child’s need and environmental challenges. Breast milk contains virtually all the nutrients antibodies and anti-oxidants an infant needs to thrive for the first six months of life (Abasiattai, Umana, Nyong and Eyo, 2014).
The benefits of breast feeding for mothers and infants have been widely recognized and researched studies have shown that breastfeeding is superior to infant formula feeding because of its protective properties against illness, in addition to its nutritional advantages (Sadoh, Oniyelu, 2011). Considering the extensive benefits of breastfeeding, the world Health organization and the American Dietetic Association recommended exclusive breast feeding of infants for the first six months and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods up to twelve (12) months of age (ADA Report, 2001). Despite widespread efforts to encourage breastfeeding, the rates in the United States (U.S) have remained low (Pugh, 2002).
Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) refers to the exclusive intake of breast milk or expressed breast milk by an infant without the addition of any other liquid or solids, with the exception of oral drops or syrups containing vitamins, mineral supplements or medicines. Exclusive breastfeeding advocated the world over as the optimal mode of feeding for young infants in the first months of life, followed by breast milk and complimentary feeds thereafter till two years of age or beyond. When the infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, their immune system is stimulated and this goes hand in hand with protecting them from disease like diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, which are considered to be two of the major causes of infant mortality in developing world. When breastfeeding is practiced exclusively, it is associated with a lower risk of HIV transmission than mixed feeding.
Other advantages of exclusive breastfeeding include reduction in post partum bleeding, improvement in home status later in life and protection against breast and ovarian cancers. Other benefits include lactational amenorrhea which enhances child spacing, early mother-infant bonding and reduction in infant abandonment and child abuse. EBF also provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation as well as a sense of satisfaction to most nursing-mothers (Madhu, Chowdary and Masti, 2009).