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  • Research article
  • Open Access
  • Open Peer Review

Trends and factors associated with early initiation of breastfeeding in Namibia: analysis of the Demographic and Health Surveys 2000–2013

  • 1Email author,
  • 2,
  • 3 and
  • 4
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth201818:171

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-1811-4

  • Received: 25 June 2017
  • Accepted: 30 April 2018
  • Published:
Open Peer Review reports

Abstract

Background

Early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) lowers the risk for all-cause mortality in babies, including those with low birth weight. However, rates of neonatal mortality and delayed initiation of breastfeeding remain high in most low- and middle-income countries. This study aimed to assess the trends and factors associated with EIBF in Namibia from 2000 to 2013.

Methods

An analysis of EIBF trends was conducted using data from three Namibia Demographic Health Surveys. The present sample included singleton children younger than 2-years from 2000 (n = 1655), 2006–2007 (n = 2152) and 2013 (n = 2062) surveys. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse respondents’ demographic, socioeconomic and obstetric characteristics. Factors associated with EIBF were assessed using univariate analysis and further evaluated using multivariable logistic regression analysis.

Results

EIBF significantly decreased from 82.5% (confidence interval [CI]: 79.5–85.0) in 2000 to 74.9% (72.5–77.2) in 2013. Factors associated with EIBF in 2000 were urban residence (adjusted odds ratio 0.58, 95% CI: 0.36–0.93), poorer household wealth index (1.82, 1.05–3.17), lack of antenatal care (0.14, 0.03–0.81), small birth size (0.38, 0.24–0.63) and large birth size (0.51, 0.37–0.79). In 2013, factors associated with EIBF were maternal age of 15–19 years (2.28, 1.22–4.24), vaginal delivery (2.74, 1.90–3.93), married mothers (1.57, 1.16–2.14), delivery assistance from health professionals (3.67, 1.23–10.9) and birth order of fourth or above (1.52, 1.03–2.26).

Conclusions

Namibia has experienced a declining trend in EIBF rates from 2000 to 2013. Factors associated with EIBF differed between 2000 and 2013. The present findings highlight the importance of continued commitment to addressing neonatal health challenges and strengthening implementation of interventions to increase EIBF in Namibia.

Keywords

  • Breastfeeding
  • Early initiation
  • Trends
  • Determinants
  • Namibia
  • Demographic health survey

Background

Globally, under half of the newborns are breastfed within an hour of delivery [1]. The proportion is even lower in the African region (44%); this rate is “fair” according to World Health Organization (WHO) classification of early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) but falls below “very good” (90–100%) [2]. The benefits of EIBF for both mother and baby are well-documented, including reduced risk of postpartum haemorrhage [3, 4], increased mother-baby bonding, increased colonisation of the baby’s enteric system by microflora [5, 6] and reduced neonatal mortality (including among low birth weight babies) [7, 8].

Despite these benefits, the rate of EIBF in most middle-income countries remains low, including in Namibia. For example, EIBF rates are 30.8 and 41.9% in rural and urban Nigeria respectively [9], 44.7% in Algeria and 58.7% in Kenya [10]. Low EIBF rates are associated with unskilled birth attendance [11], non-health facility [12] and caesarean deliveries [10, 13] and maternal complications [10]. High EIBF rates are associated with health facility delivery, large birth size, formal education, urban residence, wealthier household index, non-working mothers, higher birth order and female babies [9, 1315].

In the early 1990s, the WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the Baby Mother-Friendly Initiative (BMFI) to support breastfeeding practices. Namibia adopted this initiative in 1992 and was among the first African countries to launch BMFI [16]. In Namibia, BMFI resulted in training healthcare professionals on breastfeeding management and promotion, certification of all 35 hospitals as baby-friendly [17] and an increase in EIBF from 52% in 1992 to 81% in 2000 [18]. However, in recent years, Namibia has experienced changes that have posed threats to these gains. The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among pregnant women receiving antenatal care increased from 4.2% in 1992 to 19.3% in 2000, with breastfeeding contributing 30–40% of mother-to-child transmission of HIV [19]. Namibia was also reclassified as an upper middle-income country in 2009, but rates of unemployment and poverty remain high. To date, no studies in Namibia have investigated the potential effects of these changes on child health indicators, including EIBF.

Namibia also failed to meet targets for child health specified in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [20]. Recent UNICEF estimates indicate the EIBF rate declined from 81% in 2000 to 71% in 2016 [1, 20]. This downward trend and the lack of evidence on changes over time in factors associated with EIBF necessitate further investigations using nationally representative data. This study aimed to assess trends and factors associated with EIBF in Namibia from 2000 to 2013.

Methods

Data sources and sample

This study used nationally representative child datasets from the Namibia Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHS) for 2000, 2006–2007 and 2013 [18, 20, 21]. All surveys used a two-stage stratified cluster sampling design based on administrative regions and locations [18, 20, 21]. The first stage involved identification of primary sampling units and the second involved selection of households. Both stages were based on the sampling frame used in the Namibia Population and Housing Census preceding the NDHS (1991, 2001 and 2011). Individual households were selected using systematic sampling [18, 20, 21]. A trained team of interviewers using standardised pre-tested household, women’s and men’s questionnaires (translated into six local languages) collected data for all surveys [18, 20, 21].

This study used data for households and women aged 15–49 years from the three surveys: 6849 households and 7308 women from 2000; 9970 households and 10,352 women from 2006 to 2007; and 11,004 households and 9940 women from 2013. The household response rate was 96.9% in 2000, 92.3% in 2006–2007 and 97% in 2013; individual response rates for women were 92.4, 94.7 and 92%, respectively. In the 5 years preceding each survey, 3989 (2000), 5168 (2006–2007) and 5046 (2013) participating women had given birth; 1707, 2206 and 2122 children were younger than 24 months (Additional file 1: Figure S1). The present analysis included children younger than 24 months who were singleton live births (2000, n = 1655; 2006–2007, n = 2152; 2013, n = 2062). Detailed information on NDHS data sources, survey settings and sampling strategies have been described elsewhere [18, 20, 21].

Measures

Outcome variable

The main study outcome was EIBF, which was assessed among children younger than 24 months. EIBF is defined as putting a newborn baby to the breast within 1 h of birth [22]. The NDHS assessed EIBF by asking respondents, ‘How long after birth did you first put (last born child’s name) to the breast?’ [18, 20, 21]. Responses were categorised into those who started breastfeeding within 1-h of birth and more than 1-h after birth.

Explanatory variables

We reviewed previously published studies on factors associated with EIBF to identify potential confounders, which were classified as maternal, obstetric and child-related factors. Maternal factors included age (< 20 years, 20–34 years, ≥35 years) [15, 23], marital status (never married, married/cohabiting, widowed/divorced/separated), residence (urban or rural), education (no formal, primary, secondary, tertiary), occupation and household wealth [13, 15, 24, 25]. Maternal occupation was categorised as paid work (skilled/unskilled manual work, clerical, blue collar), agriculture (paid and unpaid agricultural work) and unemployed (not working, housewives, domestic work) [25]. Household wealth was categorised in quintiles (1–poorest; 5–richest) [26], generated from wealth scores calculated using principal component analysis of household assets [27].

Obstetric factors included antenatal care (ANC) visits (0, 1–3, ≥4, do not remember) [3, 28], place of delivery (health facility or home/other) [3], delivery mode (vaginal or caesarean section) [29] and assistance during delivery (health professional, traditional birth attendants [TBAs], self/relatives) [24]. Child-related factors were sex [13], birth size (small, average, large) [25] and birth order (1, 2–3, ≥4) [24].

Statistical analysis

Data were checked for completeness and consistency. Statistical analyses on complete cases were performed with STATA version 13.1 excluding 111 (6.7%), 209 (9.7%) and 155 (7.5%) children who had missing data on the outcome variable for 2000, 2006–2007 and 2013 surveys, respectively. We used frequencies and percentages to report sample characteristics and EIBF trends, and chi-square tests to assess associations between explanatory variables and EIBF in each survey. Simple and hierarchical multivariable logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess factors associated with EIBF in each survey. To allow comparability across the surveys, variables in all three surveys with a p-value > 0.25 in univariable regression analyses were excluded from the multivariable analyses [30]. Maternal, obstetric, and child-related factors were first included in the model separately and then together in a final model. We also adjusted for the sampling weight and cluster design of the surveys [31] and reported unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results

Respondents’ characteristics

Table 1 outlines the children’s and mothers’ characteristics. The proportion of teenage mothers decreased from 11.4% in 2000 to 10.8% in 2013, and that of mothers living in urban areas increased from 33.2% in 2000 to 47.6% in 2013. Mothers with no education decreased from 13.3% in 2000 to 5.5% in 2013, and rates of secondary education increased from 49.1% in 2000 to 66.7% in 2013. The proportion of health facility deliveries increased from 76.9% in 2000 to 88.5% in 2013. Delivery assistance from TBAs decreased from 2.2% in 2000 to 0.5% in 2013. In addition, the proportion of mothers delivering via caesarean section increased from 12.2% in 2006–2007 to 15.6% in 2013. The proportion of male babies decreased from 50.7% in 2000 to 48.3% in 2013, and that of large-sized babies increased from 30.4% in 2000 to 38.6% in 2013.
Table 1

Respondents’ characteristics

 

2000

2006–2007

2013

Characteristics

n

%

n

%

n

%

Age, years

 15–19

189

11.4

252

11.5

222

10.8

 20–34

1124

69.0

1508

71.6

1436

71.0

 35–49

297

19.6

355

16.9

381

18.2

Residence

 Urban

604

33.2

783

40.3

910

47.6

 Rural

1006

66.8

1332

59.7

1129

52.4

Marital status

 Never married

664

44.4

944

44.9

1021

51.3

 Married/cohabiting

841

49.9

1080

50.6

931

44.8

 Divorced/separated/widow

105

5.7

90

4.6

87

3.9

Education

 No education

268

13.3

250

10.7

155

5.5

 Primary

555

35.2

626

27.9

470

22.0

 Secondary

751

49.1

1164

57.1

1327

66.7

 Higher education

36

2.4

75

4.3

87

5.7

Occupation

 Not working

1034

66.2

1052

49.2

1203

57.1

 Agriculture

66

5.8

269

12.6

36

1.4

 Paid work

503

28.1

778

38.2

798

41.4

Wealth, quintiles

 Poorest

340

23.8

422

19.8

410

21.3

 Poorer

298

21.9

451

20.8

410

20.3

 Average

317

19.5

392

19.1

397

19.1

 Richer

318

17.3

417

21.1

408

18.7

 Richest

316

17.5

418

19.3

403

20.6

ANC attendance, visits

 0

113

6.1

86

3.9

82

3.2

 1–3

285

18.3

378

17.7

279

13.1

  ≥ 4

1031

68.2

1451

71.3

1237

62.5

 Do not remember

138

7.3

140

7.1

390

21.3

Place of delivery

 Health facility

1211

76.9

1704

81.9

1761

88.5

 Home/others

393

23.1

410

18.1

277

11.5

Delivery mode

 Vaginal

1891

87.8

1741

84.4

 Caesarean

220

12.2

295

15.6

Parity

 1

470

29.9

666

32.0

625

31.7

 2–3

630

38.3

904

43.0

860

42.7

 4+

510

31.9

545

25.0

554

25.6

Assistance during labour

 Health professional

1396

90.0

1944

94.5

1896

96.2

 TBAs

32

2.2

28

1.3

15

0.5

 Relatives/self

136

7.8

94

4.2

84

3.3

Birth order

 1

482

30.4

683

32.6

643

32.5

 2–3

622

38.0

890

42.5

845

42.1

 4+

506

31.6

542

24.9

551

25.5

Baby’s sex

 Male

807

50.7

1104

52.1

990

48.3

 Female

803

49.3

1011

47.9

1049

51.7

Baby’s birth size

 Large

464

30.4

739

35.7

779

38.6

 Average

844

53.1

1033

48.5

886

43.3

 Small

291

16.5

337

15.7

392

18.1

ANC antenatal care, TBAs traditional birth attendants

EIBF trends in Namibia

Namibia experienced a decline in the EIBF rate between 2000 and 2013. The weighted percentage of babies who were breastfed within 1 h of birth decreased significantly from 82.5% (95% CI: 79.5–85.0) in 2000 to 74.9% (95% CI: 72.5–77.2) in 2013. However, the change from 2006–2007 (72.8, 95% CI: 70.2–75.2) to 2013 was not significant.

Table 2 illustrates EIBF rates by mother and child characteristics. In all three surveys, there were equal proportions of EIBF among male and female babies, and EIBF rates were higher among mothers who lived in urban areas, delivered vaginally and in health facilities and had four or more ANC visits. EIBF was significantly associated with birth size (2000 and 2006–2007), delivery mode (2006–2007 and 2013), and occupation and marital status (2013).
Table 2

Rates of early initiation of breastfeeding in Namibia (2000, 2006–2007 and 2013) by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics

Characteristics

2000

2006–2007

2013

Percentage difference

%

95% CI

p-valuea

%

95% CI

p-valuea

%

95% CI

p-valuea

2000–2006b

2006–2013b

2000–2013b

Age, years

 15–19

8.9

7.2–10.8

 

7.9

6.7–9.4

 

9.1

7.7–10.6

 

−1

1.2

0.2

 20–34

58.2

54.4–61.9

0.143

53.1

50.4–55.8

0.057

52.7

50.0–55.3

0.160

−5.1

−0.4

−5.5

 35–49

15.4

13.3–17.8

 

11.7

10.1–13.6

 

13.2

11.4–15.2

 

−3.7

1.5

−2.2

Residence

 Rural

27.6

23.8–31.7

0.210

27.7

24.8–30.7

0.856

34.9

32.3–37.4

0.579

0.1

7.2*

7.3**

 Urban

54.8

50.9–58.7

 

45.1

42.5–47.8

 

40.1

37.4–42.8

 

−9.7

−5

−14.7**

Marital status

 Never married

35.8

32.3–39.4

 

33.2

30.5–35.9

 

37.1

34.4–39.7

 

−2.6

3.9

1.3

 Married/cohabiting

42.2

38.6–45.9

0.322

36

33.3–38.8

0.497

35.1

32.5–37.8

0.021

−6.2

−0.9

−7.1

 Divorced/separated/widow

4.4

3.4–5.8

 

3.6

2.7–4.7

 

2.8

2.0–3.8

 

−0.8

−0.8

−1.6

Education

 No formal

11.5

8.9–14.6

 

7.8

6.5–9.4

 

4.2

3.3–5.4

 

−3.7

−3.6**

−7.3**

 Primary

29.1

25.6–32.8

0.805

21.3

19.4–23.5

0.542

17.3

15.3–19.4

0.071

−7.8**

−4

−11.8**

 Secondary

39.9

36.4–43.4

 

40.6

37.8–43.4

 

50.0

47.1–53.0

 

0.7

9.4

10.1**

 Tertiary

2.0

1.2–3.3

 

3.0

2.0–4.5

 

3.4

2.4–4.9

 

1

0.4

1.4

Occupation

 Not working

54.3

50.7–57.8

 

36.6

33.9–39.4

 

44.2

41.4–47.1

 

−12.8**

1.7

−11.1**

 Agriculture

5.2

3.3–7.9

0.114

9.4

7.8–11.1

0.933

1.1

0.7–1.8

0.023

3.3

0.3

3.6

 Paid work

23.0

20.2–26.0

 

27.0

24.1–30.0

 

29.6

27.3–32.0

 

3.3

0.3

3.6

Wealth, quintiles

 Poorest

19.9

17.1–23.1

 

15.1

13.1–17.2

 

15.7

13.7–18.0

 

−4.8

0.6

−4.2

 Poorer

19.0

16.2–22.2

 

15.9

13.9–18.1

 

15.8

13.7–18.1

 

−3.1

−0.1

−3.2

 Average

16.0

13.1–19.5

0.378

13.5

11.6–15.7

0.624

15.0

12.9–17.2

0.198

−2.5

1.5

− 1

 Richer

13.8

11.2–16.8

 

14.5

12.7–16.6

 

14.2

12.3–16.4

 

0.7

−0.3

0.4

 Richest

13.8

11.1–17.0

 

13.9

12.2–15.8

 

14.3

12.3–16.6

 

0.1

0.4

0.5

ANC attendance, visits

 0

5.4

4.0–7.3

 

3.1

2.3–4.3

 

2.6

1.9–3.5

 

−2.3

−0.5

−2.8**

 1–3

15.3

13.3–17.5

0.523

13.5

11.9–15.2

0.379

10.3

8.8–11.9

0.063

−1.8

−3.2

−5**

  ≥ 4

55.2

51.2–59.0

 

51.4

48.5–54.2

 

45.7

42.8–45.6

 

−3.8

−5.7**

−9.5**

 Don’t remember

6.3

4.7–8.3

 

4.8

3.9–5.8

 

16.4

14.2–18.8

 

−1.5

11.6**

10.1**

Place of delivery

 Health facility

63.5

59.9–67.0

0.870

60.0

57.1–62.7

0.342

65.9

63.4–68.4

0.456

−3.5

5.9*

2.4

 Home/others

19.0

16.8–22.3

 

12.9

11.2–14.8

 

9.0

7.6–10.6

 

−6.1*

−3.9

−10**

Delivery mode

 Vaginal

66.9

64.3–69.5

< 0.001

66.2

63.6–68.7

< 0.001

 

−0.7

 

 Caesarean

5.8

4.6–7.4

 

8.7

7.2–10.5

  

2.9

 

Parity

 1

23.3

20.9–26.0

 

23.6

21.2–26.3

 

23.9

21.8–26.2

 

0.3

0.3

0.6

 2–3

33.0

30.4–35.7

0.093

30.9

28.6–33.2

0.466

31.3

29.0–33.7

0.086

−2.1

0.4

−1.7

 4+

26.1

23.1–29.4

 

18.3

16.3–20.5

 

19.7

17.6–22.0

 

−7.8

1.4

−6.4**

Delivery assistance

 Health professional

73.9

70.7–76.8

 

68.2

65.6–70.7

 

72.1

69.7–74.4

0.049

−5.7

3.9

−1.8

 TBAs

2.0

1.3–3.1

0.438

1.3

0.7–2.1

0.062

0.2

0.1–0.5

 

−0.7

−1.1*

−1.8*

 Relative/self

6.2

4.7–8.2

 

3.3

2.4–4.4

 

2.6

2.0–3.5

 

−2.9

−0.7

−3.6**

Birth order

 1

23.8

21.3–26.4

 

23.6

21.2–26.3

 

23.9

21.8–26.2

0.086

−0.2

0.3

0.1

 2–3

32.8

30.2–35.6

0.111

30.9

28.6–33.2

0.466

31.3

28.9–33.7

 

−1.9

0.4

−1.5

 4+

25.8

22.8–29.1

 

18.3

16.3–20.5

 

19.7

17.6–22.0

 

−7.5

1.4

−6.1

Baby’s sex

 Male

41.2

37.8–44.6

0.426

36.4

34.0–38.9

0.284

36.8

34.4–39.2

0.134

−4.8

0.4

−4.4

 Female

41.3

38.3–44.3

 

36.4

33.8–39.1

 

38.1

35.7–40.6

 

−4.9

1.7

−3.2

Baby’s birth size

 Small

23.5

20.4–26.8

 

24.6

22.2–27.2

 

28.6

26.1–31.1

 

1.1

4

5.1

 Average

47.2

43.5–50.9

0.001

37.7

35.2–40.4

0.008

33.6

31.0–36.3

0.090

−9.5**

−4.1

−13.6**

 Large

11.7

9.7–14.0

 

10.4

8.8–12.1

 

12.8

11.0–14.9

 

−1.3

2.4

1.1

ANC antenatal care, CI confidence interval, TBAs traditional birth attendants

ap-value for association for each year

bPercentage point difference between survey years with a significance tests for difference in proportions; *p-value < 0.05; **p-value < 0.01

Overall, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of mothers who initiated breastfeeding early. The EIBF rate among urban mothers decreased significantly from 54.8% (95% CI: 50.9–58.7) in 2000 to 40.1% (95% CI: 37.4–42.8) in 2013. Similarly, the EIBF rate among married mothers decreased from 42.2% (95% CI: 38.6–45.9) in 2000 to 35.1% (95% CI: 32.5–37.8) in 2013. There was a decrease in EIBF among working mothers from 57.4% (95% CI: 54.0–60.8) in 2000 to 46.3% (95% CI: 43.5–49.2) in 2013. EIBF among mothers with a secondary education increased from 39.9% (95% CI: 36.4–43.4) in 2000 to 50% (95% CI: 47.1–53.0) in 2013 (Table 2).

Factors associated with EIBF in Namibia

In the bivariate analysis, EIBF was significantly associated with birth order and birth size in 2000, birth size, maternal age, and delivery mode in 2006–2007 and birth size, birth order, delivery assistance by TBAs, delivery mode, ANC, occupation, wealth, education and marital status in 2013 (Table 3).
Table 3

Univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses of factors associated with early initiation of breastfeeding

 

2000

2006–2007

2013

Characteristics

COR (95% CI)

AOR (95% CI)

COR (95% CI)

AOR (95% CI)

COR (95% CI)

AOR (95% CI)

Age, years

 15–19

0.91 (0.51–1.63)

1.10 (0.53–2.31)

0.87 (0.57–1.34)

1.00 (0.57–1.75)

1.56 (0.96–2.56)

2.28 (1.22–4.24)*

 20–34

1.38 (0.89–2.15)

1.55 (0.91–2.62)

1.26 (0.94–1.69)

1.49 (1.07–2.08)*

1.05 (0.76–1.46)

1.30 (0.90–1.87)

 35–49

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

Residence

 Rural

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Urban

0.74 (0.46–1.19)

0.58 (0.36–0.93)*

1.03 (0.77–1.36)

0.89 (0.64–1.24)

1.07 (0.84–1.38)

0.93 (0.68–1.26)

Marital status

 Never married

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Married/cohabiting

1.29 (0.86–1.94)

1.23 (0.73–2.07)

0.99 (0.78–1.27)

0.94 (0.72–1.24)

1.44 (1.10–1.90)*

1.57 (1.16–2.14)*

 Divorced/separated

0.93 (0.47–1.81)

0.96 (0.47–1.96)

1.44 (0.78–2.64)

1.41 (0.75–2.65)

1.09 (0.59–2.01)

1.11 (0.60–2.03)

Education

 Tertiary

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Secondary

0.96 (0.38–2.47)

0.90 (0.32–2.51)

1.11 (0.55–2.26)

0.86 (0.37–1.99)

1.75 (0.98–3.11)

1.22 (0.51–2.19)

 Primary

0.98 (0.41–2.39)

0.89 (0.32–2.43)

1.35 (0.66–2.76)

1.03 (0.43–2.48)

1.95 (1.07–3.56)*

1.06 (0.51–2.19)

 No formal

1.23 (0.46–3.23)

0.95 (0.31–2.88)

1.28 (0.62–2.67)

0.93 (0.37–2.38)

2.31 (1.14–4.68)*

1.21 (0.51–2.86)

Occupation

 Paid work

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Agriculture

4.03 (0.98–16.5)

2.87 (0.69–11.9)

1.01 (0.71–1.43)

0.91 (0.62–1.35)

1.62 (0.62–4.24)

1.55 (0.58–4.11)

 Not working

1.03 (0.66–1.56)

1.05 (0.69–1.60)

1.04 (0.77–1.41)

0.98 (0.72–1.34)

1.36 (1.07–174)*

1.27 (0.97–1.66)

Wealth

 Richest

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Richer

0.87 (0.56–1.35)

0.91 (0.54–1.51)

0.90 (0.63–1.29)

0.87 (0.60–1.26)

1.51 (1.04–2.02)*

1.35 (0.90–2.03)

 Average

1.30 (0.81–2.10)

1.52 (0.86–2.68)

0.94 (0.68–1.30)

0.93 (0.65–1.33)

1.47 (0.98–2.20)

1.22 (0.78–1.91)

 Poorer

1.36 (0.82–2.22)

1.82 (1.05–3.17)*

1.14 (0.79–1.64)

1.07 (0.73–1.58)

1.33 (0.93–1.92)

1.02 (0.67–1.56)

 Poorest

1.13 (0.70–1.81)

1.52 (0.89–2.57)

1.13 (0.76–1.68)

1.08 (0.70–1.66)

1.26 (0.86–1.85)

0.94 (0.59–1.48)

ANC attendance, visits

 0

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 1–3

0.69 (0.28–1.70)

0.19 (0.04–1.05)

0.81 (0.44–1.52)

1.02 (0.12–8.55)

0.62 (0.30–1.26)

0.17 (0.01–3.16)

 4+

0.57 (0.25–1.29)

0.14 (0.03–0.81)*

0.67 (0.37–1.20)

0.85 (0.10–7.09)

0.45 (0.24–0.84)*

0.14 (0.01–2.51)

 Do not remember

0.67 (0.22–2.05)

0.18 (0.03–1.21)

0.65 (0.34–1.28)

0.79 (0.09–6.65)

0.57 (0.29–1.14)

0.16 (0.01–3.09)

Place of delivery

 Home/others

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Health facility

1.03 (0.70–1.53)

1.33 (0.86–2.07)

1.13 (0.87–1.47)

1.53 (1.10–2.14)*

0.88 (0.63–1.23)

1.25 (0.83–1.90)

Delivery modea

 Caesarean

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Vaginal

2.53 (1.75–3.68)**

2.58 (1.68–3.97)**

2.84 (2.03–3.97)**

2.74 (1.90–3.93)**

Delivery assistance

 TBAs

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Health professional

0.47 (0.15–1.47)

0.48 (0.14–1.61)

0.32 (0.10–1.01)

0.19 (0.04–0.91)*

3.60 (1.09–11.8)*

3.67 (1.23–10.9)*

 Relative/self

0.44 (0.13–1.47)

0.13 (0.02–0.81)

0.47 (0.13–1.71)

0.30 (0.02–4.30)

5.31 (1.36–20.7)*

0.99 (0.05–20.7)

Birth order

 1

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 2–3

1.50 (1.01–2.23)*

1.36 (0.87–2.12)

1.13 (0.85–1.50)

0.99 (0.69–1.43)

1.08 (0.83–1.40)

1.16 (0.86–1.56)

 4+

1.10 (0.74–1.64)

1.20 (0.67–2.15)

1.21 (0.86–1.72)

1.23 (0.78–1.95)

1.42 (1.03–1.97)*

1.52 (1.03–2.26)*

Baby’s birth size

 Average

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

 Small

0.39 (0.24–0.63)**

0.38 (0.24–0.60)**

0.64 (0.44–0.93)*

0.63 (0.44–0.90)*

0.71 (0.51–0.99)*

0.72 (0.65–1.01)

 Large

0.55 (0.37–0.79)*

0.51 (0.34–0.78)*

0.67 (0.51–0.90)*

0.69 (0.51–0.94)*

0.83 (0.64–1.07)

0.86 (0.52–1.13)

aDelivery mode was not available for the 2000 NDHS. However, this was measured in the later surveys

AOR adjusted odds ratio, CI confidence interval, COR crude odds ratio (unadjusted odds ratio), NDHS Namibia Demographic Health Survey, TBAs traditional birth attendants **p-value < 0.001 *p-value < 0.05

The multivariate analysis showed that in 2000, the odds of EIBF were 82% higher among mothers in households with a poorer wealth index compared with richer households (AOR 1.82, 95% CI: 1.05–3.17). In addition, mothers in rural areas had 42% (AOR 0.58, 95% CI 0.36–0.93) reduced odds of EIBF compared with urban mothers. Mothers who attended the recommended four or more ANC visits had 86% (AOR 0.14, 95% CI: 0.03–0.81) reduced odds of EIBF compared with those not attending ANC. In 2006–2007, the odds of EIBF were 49% higher among mothers aged 20–34 years compared with those aged ≥35 years, 53% higher among health facility deliveries compared with home deliveries and 2.58 times higher among those who had a vaginal delivery compared with a caesarean section. In 2013, mothers aged 15–19 years (AOR 2.28, 95% CI: 1.22–4.24), married mothers (AOR 1.57, 95% CI: 1.16–2.14) and those who had a vaginal delivery (AOR 2.74, 95% CI: 1.90–3.93) had higher odds of EIBF compared with older women, unmarried women and those who had a caesarean section, respectively. Babies with a birth order of fourth or above had 52% increased odds of EIBF compared with first-born babies (AOR 1.52, 95% CI: 1.03–2.26). In 2006–2007, health professional-assisted deliveries had 81% reduced odds of EIBF compared with TBAs-assisted delivery (AOR 0.19, 95% CI: 0.04–0.91). In contrast, the odds of EIBF among health professional-assisted deliveries in 2013 were 3.67 times higher compared with TBAs-assisted deliveries (AOR 3.67, 95% CI: 1.23–10.9) (Table 3).

Discussion

The WHO classifies EIBF rates as poor (0–29%), fair (30–49%), good (50–89%) and very good (90–100%) [2]. The EIBF rate in Namibia is still considered good despite the significant decline from 82.5% in 2000 to 74.9% in 2013. This trend is similar to those witnessed in other middle-income countries such as Vietnam (62%) and Haiti (69%) [29, 32], and in lower-middle income settings (82%) [3335]. The decline in the EIBF rate in Namibia between 2000 and 2006–2007 may be attributed to the high rates of HIV [19], insufficient health infrastructure, poor access, and ineffective and inefficient health service provision [36]. However, the slight increase in the EIBF rate between the 2006–2007 and 2013 surveys may be explained by government efforts, such as enactment of infant and young child feeding policies [36].

Our findings showed the number and nature of factors associated with EIBF varied from 2000 to 2013. Overall, this may be attributable to sociocultural and economic changes, increased rural-urban migration, improved school enrolment among girls, reduced teenage pregnancies, increased employment among women and health service use [37]. We found significant associations between EIBF and delivery mode, ANC attendance, baby’s birth size, place of residence, maternal age, marital status, delivery assistance and birth order. EIBF was also more likely among mothers who had a vaginal delivery compared with a caesarean section [13, 33, 3840]. This may be partly explained by the increased rates of caesarean sections in 2006–2007 and 2013, effects of anaesthesia delaying the onset of lactation, associated respiratory distress among babies delivered by caesarean section [15] and healthcare professionals’ increased preoccupation with assisting mothers to stabilise rather than initiating breastfeeding [11, 41]. This highlights the need for appropriate guidelines to reduce the number of caesarean deliveries and educate mothers about the negative association between pre-labour caesarean delivery decisions and implications for the baby’s wellbeing.

Lower ANC attendance leading to delayed initiation of breastfeeding in 2000 was consistent with previous studies [33, 42]. It is paramount to promote skilled birth attendance and baby-friendly initiatives in health facilities [22] and improve new mothers’ breastfeeding practices through nutrition education during ANC visits [43]. Findings from Nigeria and Brazil indicate EIBF was more likely among mothers who had large babies at birth [9, 14, 25, 26]. In contrast, we found that EIBF was less likely among both large- and small-sized babies between 2000 and 2006–2007 compared with average-sized babies. Small babies often have weak breastfeeding reflexes, poor coordination, and difficulty swallowing [14, 26]. This may be attributable to healthcare providers’ increased attention to stabilising the baby rather than easing the initiation of breastfeeding [26]. Existing literature also shows that both mothers and healthcare providers perceive large babies as healthy, leading to EIBF [26].

We found EIBF was more likely among urban mothers compared with rural mothers, which was consistent with previous studies [14, 44]. This may be explained by higher ANC attendance rates, increased levels of employment and higher education levels among mothers living in urban areas. Urban women may also have increased access to information, leading to higher EIBF rates [45]. However, in 2013, place of residence was no longer a significant factor. This may be because of increased urbanisation and service provision to various parts of the country [20].

Younger women and adolescents had increased odds of initiating breastfeeding within the one-hour post-delivery period, which was similar to findings from low and middle-income countries [10, 46]. This may be attributable to improved girls education, numbers of planned pregnancies and social support [32], and the intention to breastfeed and better prenatal attitude [47, 48]. Moreover, maternal age as a determinant of EIBF is largely dependent on the presence of factors such education level and residency; in the absence of those factors, age may not impact the EIBF rate [10]. Other factors associated with EIBF included marital status and birth order. EIBF was more likely among married mothers and babies born into large families, which may be because of psychosocial support from family [49]. Multiparous women also have an increased level of knowledge and experience, and EIBF may, therefore, be more likely.

We did not find a significant association between socioeconomic status and EIBF, which was consistent with a study on trends and determinants of EIBF in Vietnam [29, 44]. Education, occupation, and wealth were not significantly associated with EIBF, except in 2000 where women in the poorer quintile had increased odds of EIBF. This finding may show the diminishing influence of socioeconomic factors on the uptake of health services and health information in Namibia. However, our finding differs from reports from Ethiopia [13] and Ireland [50] that showed EIBF was more likely among employed women, and from Indonesia [12] where it was less likely among women from wealthy households.

Strengths and limitations

The use of publicly available, nationally representative data in this study allows our findings to be generalised to Namibia. However, our study has some limitations and caution is needed in interpreting the results. First, data collection for our main outcome relied on respondents’ recall, meaning there is a likelihood of recall bias. Existing literature shows that overestimation or underestimation of EIBF is possible because of the mothers’ inability to assess time in minutes or hours [51]. Moreover, it has been found that a mother’s response to the question on when they first put their baby to the breast ‘was related to the first time the newborn received breast milk rather than their first attempt to initiate breastfeeding’ [51]. Second, data on delivery mode were not available before 2006–2007. Thus, we could not assess the trends and association of delivery mode and EIBF in 2000, but the later years showed a consistent pattern. Lastly, causality cannot be inferred as this was a cross-sectional study.

Policy and practice implications

UNICEF and WHO are implementing a global initiative to improve breastfeeding outcomes with a goal of improving the average EIBF rate to 70% globally [1]. Namibia has achieved this target because of government commitment through the implementation of policies and programmes (e.g. Food and Nutrition Policy for Namibia, National Policy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, Food and Nutrition Guidelines) and a focus on accelerating the achievement of better child health indicators since 1993 [52]. However, the EIBF rate has declined over the recent years, eroding the gains of various programmes and policies. There is a need for increased focus on reviewing existing breastfeeding policies and ensuring full implementation of relevant breastfeeding policies and programmes such as BMFI to accelerate progress towards reversing this trend of declining EIBF in Namibia and contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals 3 on health.

Conclusion

Namibia experienced a declining trend in the EIBF rate from 2000 to 2013. Factors associated with EIBF also changed over the years. In 2000, urban residence, poorer women, ANC attendance and baby’s birth size were associated with EIBF. Associated factors in 2013 were maternal age, marital status, caesarean section, TBA-assisted delivery, and birth order. These findings suggest there is a need for renewed commitment to promote breastfeeding in Namibia to reverse the trend of declining EIBF.

Abbreviations

ANC: 

Antenatal care

AOR: 

Adjusted odds ratio

BMFI: 

Baby Mother-Friendly Initiative

CI: 

Confidence interval

COR: 

Crude odds ratio

EIBF: 

Early initiation of breastfeeding

HIV: 

Human immunodeficiency virus

MDGs: 

Millennium development goals

NDHS: 

Namibia Demographic Health Survey

OR: 

Odds ratio

TBAs: 

Traditional birth attendants

UNICEF: 

United Nations Children’s Fund

WHO: 

World Health Organisation

Declarations

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Dr. O’Brien Kyololo, Kevin Momanyi and Richard Kalisa for reviewing an earlier version of this paper, the Demographic and Health Survey Programme for allowing us access to the data and Audrey Holmes for editing and proofreading drafts of the manuscripts.

Availability of data and materials

The NDHS data and materials used in this study are available for free and on request on the Demographic and Health Survey website at www.dhsprogram.com.

Authors’ contributions

SMG, MNN, HMM and DCK conceptualised and designed the study; SMG obtained the data and MNN and SMG analysed and wrote the first draft. HMM and DCK interpreted the results and critically revised earlier drafts of the manuscript. SMG, MNN, HMM and DCK approved the last version of the manuscript and are accountable for all aspects of the work.

Ethical approval and consent to participate

Data used for this study were accessed through the Demographic and Health Survey website after completion of a user’s agreement and granting of access. NDHS sought the necessary ethical approvals before survey data collection from the University of Namibia Research and Ethics Committee and the Human Research Committee of the ICF Macro International. All interviewed respondents gave informed consent and publicly available data were anonymised [18, 20, 21].

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Division of Social Medicine and Global Health, Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden
(2)
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Aga Khan University, P.O. Box 30270 – 00100, Nairobi, Kenya
(3)
Kenya Red Cross Society, P.O. Box 40712 – 00100, Nairobi, Kenya
(4)
School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Kabarak University, P.O. Private Bag 20157, Kabarak, Kenya

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