Background: At the national level in Ethiopia, there is limited knowledge of trends and factors associated with early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), particularly during the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) era (2000-2015). The study aimed to examine the trends and determinants of early initiation of breastfeeding and EBF in Ethiopia between 2000 and 2016.
Methods: Using the Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) data for the years: 2000 (n = 3680), 2005 (n = 3528), 2011 (n = 4037) and 2016 (n = 3861), trends in early initiation of breastfeeding and EBF were estimated. Multivariate logistic regression models that adjusted for confounders, sampling weight, clustering and stratification were used to examine the association between socioeconomic, demographic, health service and community level factors with early initiation of breastfeeding and EBF from 2000 to 2016.
Results: The prevalence of early initiation of breastfeeding increased from 48.8% in 2000 to 75.7% in 2016 in Ethiopia. Improvement in EBF prevalence was not statistically significant (from 54.5% in 2000 to 59.9% in 2016). Over the study period, informal maternal employment (Adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR] 0.75; 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 0.68, 0.83), frequent antenatal care visits (aOR 0.74; 95% CI 0.65, 0.85), and cesarean birthing (aOR 0.22; 95% CI 0.17, 0.30) were associated with delayed initiation of breastfeeding. Birthing in the health facility (aOR 1.35; 95% CI 1.05, 1.75) and residing in the metropolis region (aOR 1.95; 95% CI 1.65, 2.32) were associated with timely initiation of breastfeeding. In a similar period, informally employed mothers (aOR 1.37; 95% CI 1.15, 1.63) and those with six or more family size (aOR 1.46; 95% CI 1.10, 1.93) were more likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
Conclusion: Early initiation of breastfeeding improved in Ethiopia during the MDG era but it is still below the national target; progress in EBF remained slow. To improve breastfeeding outcomes and meet the global breastfeeding targets in Ethiopia, infant feeding efforts should focus on improving key modifiable factors, including place and mode of birthing and socioeconomic status of mothers.