Background: Early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) reduces the risk of neonatal mortality. Previous studies from India have documented some factors associated with EIBF. However, those studies used data with limited sample size that potentially affect the application of the evidence. Additionally, the effectiveness of national breastfeeding programmes requires up-to-date analysis of new and robust EIBF data. The present study aimed to investigate the prevalence and determinants of EIBF in India and determine to what extent these factors differ by a mother's residence in the rural or urban area.
Methods: This study used information from a total weighted sample of 94,401 mothers from the 2015-2016 India National Family Health Survey. Multivariate logistic regression was used to investigate the association between the study factors and EIBF in India and rural-urban populations, after adjusting for confounders and sampling weight.
Results: Our analysis indicated that 41.5% (95% confidence interval (CI): 40.9-42.5, P < 0.001) of Indian mothers initiated breastfeeding within 1-h post-birth, with similar but significant different proportions estimated for those who resided in rural (41.0, 95% CI: 40.3-41.6, P < 0.001) and urban (42.9, 95% CI: 41.7-44.2, P < 0.001) areas. Mothers who had frequent health service contacts and those with higher educational attainment reported higher EIBF practice. Multivariate analyses revealed that higher educational achievement, frequent antenatal care visits and birthing in a health facility were associated with EIBF in India and rural populations (only health facility birthing for urban mothers). Similarly, residing in the North-Eastern, Southern, Eastern and Western regions were also associated with EIBF. Birthing through caesarean, receiving delivery assistance from non-health professionals and residing in rural areas of the Central region were associated with delayed EIBF in all populations.
Conclusion: We estimated that more than half of Indian mothers delayed breastfeeding initiation, with different rural-urban prevalence. Key modifiable factors (higher maternal education and frequent health service contacts) were associated with EIBF in India, with notable difference in rural-urban populations. Our study suggests that targeted and well-coordinated infant feeding policies and interventions will improve EIBF for all Indian mothers.
Keywords: Breastfeeding; Children; Early initiation; India; Rural; Urban.