Volume 3 Issue 3 2023

Practices of Exclusive Breastfeeding among Lactating Mothers Attending Care at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, Hoima city, Western Uganda

Herbert Rotich

Department of Medicine and Surgery at Kampala International University Western Campus Uganda


Although being ever breastfed, compared with never breastfed, is linked with numerous improved infant and maternal health outcomes, mounting research evidence confirms that the health benefits of breastfeeding are dose-related, with exclusive breastfeeding conferring the maximum health benefits for infants and mothers.This study assessed practice of exclusive breastfeeding among lactating mothers attending Hoima Regional Referral Hospital in Hoima city, Western Uganda. This study was a hospital based descriptive cross-sectional study. A face-to-face interview using a structured questionnaire was used for data collection. The entry, coding and analysis of data was done using Microsoft excel and then transferred to SPSS version 20. Practice scores were assessed using Food Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) standard levels. Descriptive statistics was presented using frequency tables and graphs. Among the 398 participants, majority were aged 21-35years (49.2%), Catholic (42.2%), had 2-3 children (44.2%) and were peasants (33.9%). Only 20.1% had good practice of exclusive breastfeeding. The study revealed that majority (89.2%) had heard about exclusive breastfeeding, heard from hospital (83.7%) and knew what exclusive breast-feeding means (83.9%). Less than half (45.0%) believe that breast milk is enough for the baby in the first six months, only 24.9% knew that breast feeding is initiated within an hour after birth and more than half (64.6%) thought serving food in the first six months is good.  The study further established that more than half (54.8%) were breastfeeding exclusively, 27.9% didn’t know that exclusive breastfeeding was important to the baby. Majority (86.2%) reported no personal problems preventing them from exclusively breast feeding and almost all (97.0%) reported no cultural beliefs in their communities that influence the way they should breastfeed. The most common reason cited among those who were not exclusively breastfeeding was inadequate breast milk (47.8%). Only 12.8% of the mothers-initiated breast feeding within the first hour and strikingly few mothers (12.1%) breastfeed babies on need. Majority (58.8%) recognize the baby’s need to breastfeed when they start crying,54.5% introduce complementary feeds when babies are 3-5months and 67.8% put babies in sitting position while breastfeeding.It is clear from the current study that the participants have poor breast feeding practices, which indicates a need for improvement in the breast feeding instruction and counseling of women.

Keyword: Exclusive breastfeeding, Lactating mothers, Care, Western Uganda


Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as an infant receiving only breast milk and no other liquids or solids except for drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, minerals, or medicines for the first six months after birth. Although being ever breastfed, compared with never breastfed, is linked with numerous improved infant and maternal health outcomes, mounting research evidence confirms that the health benefits of breastfeeding are dose-related, with exclusive breastfeeding conferring the maximum health benefits for infants and mothers [1-3].Over the last couple of decades, there has been an increasing interest in the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding as the ‘best’ feeding method for newborns. This, to a large extent, has been inspired by mounting scientific evidence on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in reducing infant morbidity and mortality [4].

Breastfeeding has been has generally been considered by health professionals as the ideal feeding practice for infants. It is the first way of interaction between the mother and her infant. Previous studies affirm that breastfeeding has advantages for both babies and mothers, including providing the needed nutrition for the babies, boosting the baby’s immune system, helping mothers to lose weight after pregnancy, and stimulating the uterus to return to its previous position before pregnancy [5]. In addition, infants digest breast milk more easily than formula feeds [6].

In their most recent breastfeeding policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirmed their long-standing recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of life, with continued breastfeeding through 12 months and beyond, as appropriate complementary foods are introduced. WHO similarly recommends that infants worldwide be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing for up to 2 years or beyond, as safe and nutritionally adequate complementary foods are added, [7].The United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth; exclusively breastfed for the first six months of age and continuation of breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond in addition to adequate complementary foods [8].It is part of optimal breastfeeding practices, EBF serves as a child’s first immunization providing protection from respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, and other potentially life-threatening ailments; EBF also has a protective effect against obesity and certain non-communicable diseases later in life [9]. Universal EBF for the first six months could reduce infant mortality by 13%. The World Health Assembly (WHA) has set a global target in order to increase the rate of EBF for infants aged 0–6 months up to at least 50%. Adherence to these guidelines varies globally, only 38% of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, [10]. Developed countries such as the United States (19%), United Kingdom (1%), and Australia (15%), have shorter breastfeeding duration than do developing countries, however, even in developing countries, only 37% of infants younger than 6 months are exclusively breastfed.

According to recent papers in the sub-Saharan Africa region, only 53.5% of infants in East African countries were EBF for six months, which is way below the WHO target of 90%, [11]. In most East African countries, exclusive breastfeeding does not meet the recommendation of WHO/UNICEF that a baby should be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months.  In Uganda, breastfeeding remains a culturally accepted practice with up to 99% of women initiating breastfeeding. However, exclusive breastfeeding rates remain low in the country.  According to the Uganda Demographic and Health survey, 62% of children below six years of age were exclusively breastfed as compared to 74% of those aged below four months. These figures were based on the 24-hour recall before the survey [12]. The challenge is how to scale up exclusive breastfeeding to universal levels. This study will be the first to evaluate the knowledge of EBF among lactating mothers within Kween district. This study will aim to provide information about mothers’ knowledge of EBF and identify factors associated with the practice of exclusive breastfeeding.


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CITE AS: Herbert Rotich (2023). Practices of Exclusive Breastfeeding among Lactating Mothers Attending Care at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, Hoima city, Western Uganda. NEWPORT INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND PHARMACY (NIJPP) 3(3): 26-32.