Objective: To describe breastfeeding practices and to assess the sociodemographic factors associated with selected breastfeeding indicators.
Design and setting: The 2003 Demographic and Health Survey was a multi-stage cluster sample survey of 4320 households from four different geographic areas in Timor-Leste.
Subjects: A total of 2162 children aged 0-23 months.
Results: A high proportion (97.6%) of infants had been ever breastfed, but only 46.1% had initiated breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. Seventy-eight percent of children <24 months were currently breastfed, 30.7% of infants <6 months were exclusively breastfed and 12.5% of infants <12 months were bottle-fed. A high proportion of infants of 6-9 months (82.0%) were receiving complementary food in addition to breast milk. Multivariate analysis revealed that exclusive breastfeeding was significantly lower in the rural west region (odds ratio (OR)=3.15) compared to the urban region, and among those from richest households (OR=1.90) compared to poorest. Mothers with primary education were significantly more likely to exclusively breastfeed than mothers with no education (OR=0.62). Increasing age of the infant was associated with significantly less current (OR=1.23) and exclusive (OR=1.35) breastfeeding. Continuation of breastfeeding at the end of the first year was significantly lower in non-working mothers (OR=1.58) compared to working mothers, and among infants born in health-care facilities (OR=2.16) than those born at home.
Conclusions: Breastfeeding practices in Timor-Leste were satisfactory, except the exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months. However, more socioeconomically privileged groups demonstrated a poorer breastfeeding performance than disadvantaged groups. Further breastfeeding promotion programmes are needed across all population groups, and should include health-care providers and maternity institutions.