Early Neonatal Feeding Is Common and Associated with Subsequent Breastfeeding Behavior in Rural Bangladesh1-3

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Exclusive breastfeeding of newborns, a practice recommended by WHO, is hindered in many countries by practices such as prelacteal feeding (feeding other foods before breast milk is fed to infants). This paper describes maternal and infant characteristics and trends over time associated with early neonatal feeding (ENF) in Bangladesh. The analysis used data from 24,992 participants in a randomized controlled trial supplementing vitamin A and β-carotene to women in northwestern rural Bangladesh. A majority of newborns (89.2%) were fed substances other than breast milk in the first 3 d of life. Early neonatal feeding practices were found to be significantly associated with lower maternal education, higher gravidity, lower socioeconomic status, and younger maternal age. A perceived inability to suckle normally after birth was closely related to the risk of an infant being fed a food other than breast milk in the first 3 d of life [OR = 0.09 (95% CI: 0.08, 0.11)]. Only 18.8% of newborns fed an early neonatal food were exclusively breastfed between 3 d and 3 mo postpartum compared with 70.6% of those not fed an early neonatal food during this period (P < 0.05). Early neonatal feeding practices should be addressed when scaling-up exclusive breastfeeding in South Asia. Maternal education, antenatal care, and support during labor and delivery may help reduce ENF and promote exclusive breastfeeding. J. Nutr. 143: 1161-1167, 2013.

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