Exclusive breastfeeding continuation and associated factors among employed women in North Ethiopia: A cross-sectional study

Kahsu Gebrekidan, Helen Hall, Virginia Plummer, Ensieh Fooladi

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Background Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) can prevent up to 13% of under-five mortality in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa the rate of EBF at six months remains very low at 36%. Different types of factors such as maternal, family and work-related factors are responsible for the low rate of EBF among employed women. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of EBF continuation and associated factors among employed women in North Ethiopia. Materials and methods A community-based, cross-sectional study was conducted in two towns of Tigray region, North Ethiopia. Employed women who had children between six months and two years were surveyed using multistage, convenience sampling. Women filled in a paper based validated questionnaire adopted from the Breastfeeding and Employment Study toolkit (BESt). The questions were grouped into four parts of sociodemographic characteristics, maternal characteristics, family support and work-related factors. Factors associated with EBF continuation as a binary outcome (yes/no) were determined using multivariable logistic regression. Results Four-hundred and forty-nine women participated in this study with a mean (SD) age 30.4 (4.2) years. Two hundred and fifty-four (56.4%) participants exclusively breastfed their children for six months or more. The main reason for discontinuation of EBF was the requirement of women to return to paid employment (31.5%). Four-hundred and forty (98.2%) participants believed that breastfeeding has benefits either to the infant or to the mother. Three hundred and seventy-one (82.8%) of the participants received support from their family at home to assist with EBF, most commonly from their husbands and mothers. Having family support (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.1, 95%, CI 1.2–3.6; P = 0.005), having frequent breaks at work (AOR = 2.6, 95% CI, 1.4–4.8; P = 0.002) and the possibility of buying or borrowing required equipment for expressing breast milk (AOR = 1.7, 95% CI, 1.0–3.0; P = 0.033) were statistically associated with an increased chance of EBF. Conclusion Although returning to work was reported by the study participants as the main reason for discontinuation of EBF, families and managers’ support play significant roles in EBF continuation, which in the absence of six-month’s maternity leave for employed women in Ethiopia would be of benefit to both mothers and children.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252445
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

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