BACKGROUND: High rates of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding have been reported in Malawi, yet the underlying factors are unknown. Our objective is to examine the determinants of breastfeeding practices for mothers of infants less than 24 months old in Malawi. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted using nationally representative data from the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used. RESULTS: Of 7282 women, 95.4% initiated breastfeeding within 1 hour after birth; thereafter 71.3% of women practiced exclusive breastfeeding, 6.1% predominantly breastfed, and 1.9% chose bottle feeding exclusively. The odds of early initiation were higher among women with frequent antenatal care visits and multiparous mothers. Similarly, frequent antenatal care visits and hospital delivery were positive determinants for exclusive breastfeeding. Infants at 6 months of age were more likely to predominantly breastfeed than they were at 1 month. The odds of bottle feeding were higher among women who were educated, who delivered at a hospital. CONCLUSIONS: Optimal breastfeeding practices are highly prevalent in Malawi. Health care practice emphasizing frequent antenatal care visits that provide breastfeeding education and breastfeeding support in hospital care after childbirth are important for sustaining breastfeeding.
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