Background of the Study
Infant feeding methods are a major determinant of infant nutritional status, which in turn, affects infant morbidity and mortality. Among feeding methods, breastfeeding is of particular importance because this practice is fundamental for growth, development, health and survival of infants. Diallo, Bell, Moutquine, & Garrant (2005) stated that about 5.6 million infants die annually because they do not receive adequate nutrition. Breastfeeding therefore has been classified by scientists and health workers as the best natural food for babies and breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients for the healthy growth of the child. The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous ranging from providing the infant with antibodies, to helping ward off risks of illnesses and providing the baby with all his/her nutritional needs (Mundi, 2008). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2004), breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first six months of life, and it provides about half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, up to one third during the second year of life. Furthermore, breast milk not only protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases, but also promotes sensory and cognitive development in addition to contributing to the health and well-being of mothers, helping in birth spacing, reducing the risks of ovarian and breast cancers as well as increasing family and national resources (WHO, 2004).
The Statement of the Problem
Breastfeeding practices have undergone tremendous medical, cultural and sometimes religious challenges and debate. In an attempt to achieve successful breastfeeding globally by the year 2000, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (1993), launched the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1991. The BFHI is a global effort involving 160 countries, of which 95 of them are in the developing world where Nigeria is inclusive (Salami, 2006). This project is to support, protect, and promote the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and thereafter until 24 months of age. Several medical literatures have also established the superiority of breast milk over the other types of milk for the nourishment of the human infants, offering better health benefits.