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Initiation of Breastfeeding in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Time-to-Event Analysis
Authors: Lindsay Mallick, Wenjuan Wang, Shiza Farid, and Thomas Pullum
Source: Global Health: Science and Practice, DOI:
Topic(s): Breastfeeding
Cesarean section
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: JUN 2021
Abstract: Objective: Early breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both the mother and her baby. Previous research typically analyzes breastfeeding initiation in binary terms (within the first hour or day). Although delays are associated with cesarean delivery and skin-to-skin contact may facilitate early breastfeeding, a more nuanced understanding of these relationships is needed. Methods: With data from 31 countries that had a Demographic and Health Survey since 2015, we described breastfeeding initiation among babies most recently born in the last 2 years to women aged 15–49 years. In a subset of 21 countries, we conducted survival analysis with multivariable log-logistic accelerated failure time (AFT) regressions to examine factors associated with time to initiation of breastfeeding, specifically the mode of delivery and skin-to-skin contact, controlling for receipt of health care as well as socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of mothers and babies. Findings: Babies in most countries began breastfeeding within a few hours after birth. The mean time to initiation of breastfeeding ranged from 1.7 hours in Burundi to 32 hours in Pakistan and 40 hours in Chad. In most countries (24 of 31), the median time was 0.5 hours. Median time to initiation was greater for births by cesarean delivery compared with vaginal births at health facilities. After controlling for covariates, AFT models showed significant delays in breastfeeding among cesarean deliveries in most countries, with as much as a 9-fold delay in Senegal. Immediate skin-to-skin contact was significantly associated with a shorter time to initiation. Conclusion: Efforts to promote early breastfeeding should encourage skin-to-skin and target cesarean deliveries.