Background: The practice of giving prelacteal feeds deprive a newborn of valuable nutrients and expose the newborn to risks of infection. Despite its negative health outcomes, prelacteal feeding prevails in Ethiopia. Therefore, the current study was undertaken to assess the prevalence of prelacteal feeding practices and its associated factors in a rural community in south Ethiopia.
Methods: We conducted a community based cross-sectional study of 597 mothers of children aged less than six months. Mothers were selected using a multistage cluster sampling technique from Hawela Tula, a rural catchment under Hawassa City Administration. Newborns exposed to any foods, substances or drinks other than human milk before the initiation of breastfeeding or during the first three days of birth were regarded as receiving prelacteal feeds. Descriptive summaries were done to present the main findings; bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were undertaken to identify variables associated with prelacteal feeding practices.
Results: Among the total infants, 25.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 23.5%, 27.5%) were found to be exposed to prelacteal feeds. Boiled water (36.8%) and fresh butter (32.2%) were the top two prelacteal foods. The prevalence of prelacteal feeding was higher among infants whose mothers are housewives, and among infants born to mothers aged between 21 and 34 years. Almost two-third (64.3%) of mothers who exposed their newborn to prelacteal feeds did so with advice from their parents. Mothers who had poor knowledge on breastfeeding were nine times more likely to practice prelacteal feeding compared to those with good knowledge (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 8.9, 95% CI 4.2, 18.7). Lack of knowledge on the risks associated with prelacteal feeding (AOR 6.8; 95% CI 2.6, 17.8) and misconceptions about breastfeeding (AOR 8.1; 95% CI 3.9, 16.6) were associated with prelacteal feeding. However, mothers' place of delivery and attendance at breastfeeding counseling sessions showed no association with the practice of prelacteal feeding.
Conclusions: Prelacteal feeding is commonly practiced in the study area. Raising women's awareness on the consequences of prelacteal feeding is warranted. Involving parents of women when promoting optimal infant feeding practices should be emphasized.