In Tanzania, about 42% of children below five years are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) may be an effective strategy to protect infants from malnutrition. Therefore, it is important to disseminate accurate information on breastfeeding recommendations to pregnant women attending antenatal visits. The aim of the study was to assess the awareness of exclusive breastfeeding among first time pregnant women attending antenatal clinics and breastfeeding counselling practices of healthcare providers, for alignment with the World Health Organizations (WHO) recommendations. A cross sectional study of eighty first time pregnant women attending antenatal clinics at Mzumbe Health Centre and Tangeni dispensary, and six nurses providing care in these facilities was undertaken. Questionnaires were used to evaluate women’s breastfeeding knowledge and future intentions to breastfeed and nurses’ breastfeeding knowledge and counselling practices. Results indicated that women’s knowledge in exclusive breastfeeding was generally poor; there were no differences in breastfeeding knowledge between the two facilities. About 94% of women had never received breastfeeding counselling at the antenatal clinics, 61% received breastfeeding information from their mothers, 37.5% said glucose water should be given immediately after delivery, only 23.8% planned to introduce solids at six months, the majority indicating that they would start solids at a younger age. Common reasons for introducing solids were; baby will be old enough (55%), baby will be hungry (32.5%), advised by the nurse (7.5%). Only one nurse had received training on breastfeeding, nurses’ knowledge of WHO breastfeeding recommendations was poor; however nurses had satisfactory knowledge of how to solve breastfeeding problems. Only three nurses said they educate mothers about exclusive breastfeeding. In conclusion, findings highlight a need to focus on delivering information and education to women and nurses.
Key words: Breastfeeding, pregnant women, healthcare providers, knowledge, practices.
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