Factors associated with exclusive breastfeeding in Kwekwe District, Zimbabwe
Evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding for child survival, growth and development is published extensively. Breastfeeding is an "unequalled" way of providing ideal food to infants and young children to promote good health, growth, development and to attainment of their full potential. Despite initiatives and programmes to promote uptake of exclusive breastfeeding, this practice remains sub-optimal in Zimbabwe. This study explored factors that influence breastfeeding decisions and practices based on mothers' own breastfeeding experiences. Methodology: This study employed a phenomenological research design. Information collected from mothers using in-depth interviews was triangulated with that from key informants. Interviews were audio-tape recorded and transcribed verbatim in Ndebele and then translated to English. Thematic analysis was used to compare various accounts from study participants to identify similar and related themes. Findings: Mothers could not differentiate exclusive breastfeeding from predominant and partial breastfeeding. Barriers to exclusive breastfeeding were: (i) Poor understanding of exclusive breastfeeding and its benefits; (ii) Use of herbal infusions; (iii) Practice of giving babies water; (iv) Perceived insufficient breastmilk production; (v) Myths and misconceptions; (vi) Breast conditions; (vii) Tradition (viii) the HIV epidemic; and (ix) Employment. Enabling factors were: (i) Adequate food for the lactating mother; (ii) Family support; (iii) Support from husband; and (iv) Knowledge of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.