This study explored the antecedent factors influencing the practice of exclusive breast feeding (EBF) among lactating mothers in Ayete, a rural community in Southwest Nigeria. A three-stage random sampling technique was used to select 410 mothers of newborns and infants less than six months from households. A pretested semi-structured questionnaire which included a 14-point knowledge scale was used for data collection. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Chi-square test and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Mean age was 27.4±5.9 years and 67.1% respondents were aware that EBF should be initiated immediately after birth. Mean knowledge score on EBF was 8.2±2.9. Age, educational level and occupation were significantly associated with knowledge of EBF (p<0.05). Main perceived challenges associated with EBF were loss of essential nutrients by mothers (87.6%) and inducement of hunger (26.2%). Only 10.2% of respondents were practicing EBF as at the time of the study. Reasons for not practicing EBF included baby needs herbs for strength and vitality (31.3%), baby needed water to quench thirst (23.9%) and non-satisfaction with breast milk alone (20.8%). Practice of EBF was significantly more among respondents earning less than
N5000.00 monthly (p<0.05). Continuous sensitization activities are needed to promote breast feeding among lactating mothers.
Key words: Exclusive breastfeeding, lactating mothers, antecedent factors.
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