Breastfeeding in Rural India

Jayant D Deshpande, Purushottam A Giri, Deepak B Phalke, Vaishali D Phalke, Piyush Kalakoti, M. M. Aarif Syed


Breastfeeding and weaning practices vary among different regions and communities. In India, breastfeeding in rural areas appears to be shaped by the beliefs of a community, which are further influenced by social, cultural, and economic factors. Malnutrition is often associated with inappropriate feeding practices; occur during the first year of life. This study was undertaken with an aim to investigate feeding and weaning practices along with the nutritional status of under five children in rural Maharashtra, India.

A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted at Pravara Rural Hospital, Loni from February 2009 to September 2009. A structured questionnaire was used to interview 300 mothers of children between age group 0-5 years attending immunization clinic and Paediatric O.P.D.  Clinical examination of the children was performed. Information was collected on socio-demographic characteristics, breastfeeding and weaning practices.

There were 61.3% male children and 37.3% female children. A highly significant association with malnutrition was associated with mother‘s educational status, family’s socio economic status and family structure. However, no significant association with malnutrition was noted with religion. Highly significant association was noted between the mothers’ educational status and the time of initiation as well as duration of breast feeding and also with the time of initiation of complimentary feeding. It was observed that only 43% children could be labelled as normal while 57% fell in various grades of malnutrition.

The critical window of the first five years of life highlights the importance of appropriate feeding and weaning practices in infants and toddlers. For most problems related to malnutrition may be tackled by engendering  awareness in rural mothers and thereby promoting healthy eating.


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