Integrating Group Counseling, Cell Phone Messaging, and Participant-Generated Songs and Dramas into a Microcredit Program Increases Nigerian Women's Adherence to International Breastfeeding Recommendations1-3

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Abstract

In northern Nigeria, interventions are urgently needed to narrow the large gap between international breastfeeding recommendations and actual breastfeeding practices. Studies of integrated microcredit and community health interventions documented success in modifying health behaviors but typically had uncontrolled designs. We conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in Bauchi State, Nigeria, with the aim of increasing early breastfeeding initiation and exclusive breastfeeding among female microcredit clients. The intervention had 3 components. Trained credit officers led monthly breastfeeding learning sessions during regularly scheduled microcredit meetings for 10 mo. Text and voice messages were sent out weekly to a cell phone provided to small groups of microcredit clients (5-7 women). The small groups prepared songs or dramas about the messages and presented them at the monthly microcredit meetings. The control arm continued with the regular microcredit program. Randomization occurred at the level of the monthly meeting groups. Pregnant clients were recruited at baseline and interviewed again when their infants were aged ≥6 mo. Logistic regression models accounting for clustering were used to estimate the odds of performing recommended behaviors. Among the clients who completed the final survey (n = 390), the odds of exclusive breastfeeding to 6 mo (OR: 2.4; 95% CI: 1.4, 4.0) and timely breastfeeding initiation (OR: 2.6; 95% CI: 1.6, 4.1) were increased in the intervention vs. control arm. Delayed introduction of water explained most of the increase in exclusive breastfeeding among clients receiving the intervention. In conclusion, a breastfeeding promotion intervention integrated into microcredit increased the likelihood that women adopted recommended breastfeeding practices. This intervention could be scaled up in Nigeria, where local organizations provide microcredit to >500,000 clients. Furthermore, the intervention could be adopted more widely given that >150 million women, many of childbearing age, are involved in microfinance globally. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01352351.

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