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J Family Community Med. 2012 May;19(2):130-5. doi: 10.4103/2230-8229.98305.

Infant feeding practices in the rural population of north India.

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital, Bareilly, India.



Breastfeeding is one of the most important determinants of child survival, birth spacing, and the prevention of childhood infections. The beneficial effects of breastfeeding depend on its initiation, duration, and the age at which the breastfed child is weaned. Breastfeeding practices vary among different regions and communities.


To assess the pattern of infant feeding and its relation to certain practices of maternity and newborn care, and to assess the knowledge of mothers on the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding.


The cross-sectional study was carried out in randomly selected villages of the Bhojipura Block of Bareilly district, Uttar Pradesh. A total of 123 women who had delivered within the last year were interviewed in a house-to-house survey. A study instrument was used to collect data. Chi- square test and regression analysis were used to analyze the data.


Most of the mothers were aged less than 30 years (78.04%) and were Hindus (73.9%). Most were illiterate (69.9%) and belonged to the lower socioeconomic class (97.5%). The majority were housewives (99.1%) and multiparous (68.2%). Most had initiated breastfeeding (78.8%) within 24 hours of delivery. About 15.4% of the infants did not receive colostrum and 22.8% of the infants were not exclusively breastfed. Ghutti (water mixed with honey and herbs), boiled water, tea, and animal milk were commonly used pre-lacteal feeds. About 47.2% of the respondents were not aware of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. About one quarter of the mothers started complementary feeding before the child was six months old. About half the deliveries had taken place at home and only a quarter of the females had had three or more antenatal visits during pregnancy. The birth weight of the majority (78%) of newborns was not measured. A majority (69.9%) of the mothers did not receive advice on child feeding. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that maternity and newborn care variables had no significant association with exclusive breastfeeding.


Despite higher rates of early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding, awareness of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding was low. This indicates the need to promote awareness of the correct method of infant feeding and care of the newborn. Creating an awareness of the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding will further strengthen and support this common practice in rural communities and avoid an early introduction to complementary foods for sociocultural reasons.


Birth weight; infant feeding practices; rural India

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