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1.1 Background

United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth; exclusively breastfeed 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.

According to a study carried out by Wanyonyi Mary (2013), EBF is an important public health strategy for improving children’s and mother’s health by reducing child morbidity and mortality and helping to control healthcare costs in the society. Additionally (Wanyonyi November, 2011) further opines that, EBF is one of the major strategies which can help and is most widely known as an effective intervention for preventing early childhood deaths.

Every year, optimal breastfeeding practices can prevent about 1.4 million deaths worldwide among children under five (WHO, 2003). Beyond the benefits that breastfeeding confers to the mother-child relationship, breastfeeding lowers the incidence of many childhood illnesses, such as middle infections, pneumonia, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes mellitus, malocclusion, and diarrhea (Jones G et al, 2003).

Breastfeeding (BF) plays a substantial role in improving nutrition, education, and maternal and child health and survival. Optimal BF practices during the early years of life have been recognized for many decades as one of the most cost-effective interventions in reducing infant and child morbidity and mortality globally (WHO & UNICEF, 2017).

Breastfeeding is not only the most cost-effective method of nutrition, but is also a unique way of providing ideal nutrition as breast milk contains all the nutrients needed by the infant for healthy growth and development. BF is of great significance for the infant as it has been associated with increased intelligence, cognitive ability, school performance, productivity, earning ability, and social development.

Thus, BF has the single largest potential impact on child morbidity and mortality of any preventive intervention. It also provides infants with superior nutritional content that is capable of improving the immunity and possible reduction in future healthcare spending (WHO, 2017). Breastfeeding is outstandingly imperative for developing countries, where child malnutrition is rising and childhood diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles are very rampant.

EBF bestows immunity against these illnesses and decreases children’s risk of becoming overweight or obese (WHO, 2017). Nearly half of all diarrhea episodes and one-third of all respiratory infections would be prevented with EBF (Victora, Aluisio, Barros, & Franca, 2016).

Although the prevalence of BF in Cameroon is high (97%), suboptimal BF practices still prevail as the percentage of infants who receive timely initiation of BF (within 1 hr after delivery) is only 30% and 20% are exclusively breastfed (Demographic and Health Survey and Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey DHS-MICS 2011). The rates of EBF in Cameroon keep on declining as the years go by.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) is a method of breast feeding which has been recommended by WHO-UNICEF. These two bodies have tested it and found it successful for solving many problems in an infant. Unfortunately, mothers’ poor knowledge on the importance of EBF and towards suboptimal breastfeeding practices is the reason of poor health of the babies.

In addition, many children are admitted in hospitals due to gastrointestinal infections, pneumonia and other allergies and infections. One of the contributing factors in child mortality is suboptimal breastfeeding at times due to the discarding of colostrum.

In Cameroon, poor EBF rates might have resulted from knowledge deficit on the importance of breastfeeding during antenatal nutrition, education sessions and infant that are subjected to poor breastfeeding practice may easily become malnourished thus contributing to the increasing rate of infant mortality. Diarrhea is one of the problems associated with the use of feeding bottles while growth retardation in babies has been found to coincide with the introduction of milk substitutes.

Moreover, mothers are unaware of the benefits of EBF and the risks associated with bottle feed. So, there is need to investigate the knowledge of mothers of the Rgina Pacis Hospital Mutengene towards the practice so that new-born babies’ health problems can be avoided.

The problems identified (low prevalence and short duration of exclusive breastfeeding) in the above mentioned studies are similar to those identified in the Regina Pacis hospital Mutengene. This therefore prompted the researcher to carry out a study on mothers’ knowledge on exclusive breastfeeding in the Regina Pacis hospital Mutengene.

1.3 Rationale of the Study

The purpose of this study is to describe the knowledge and practices of mothers towards EBF and identify factors that are associated with the non-practice of EBF.

1.4 Research Questions

What knowledge do breastfeeding mothers have on exclusive breastfeeding in the Regina Pacis hospital Mutengene community?
What are the practices of breastfeeding mothers in the Regina Pacis Hospital Mutengene community on exclusive breastfeeding?
What are the challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers in the practice of exclusive breastfeeding in the Regina Pacis Hospital Mutengene?

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