Breast feeding practices and child health in Gulu District: Case study of Gulu and Lacor Referral Hospitals.
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Two third of death occur during the first year of life and are closely associated with poor breast feeding and poor complementary feeding practices. Only a minority of infants is exclusively breast fed during the first months of life and a good number of mothers introduce their babies to supplementary foods too early while some wait too long to start these foods. This study therefore sought to establish breast feeding practices and child health in Gulu district. The study objectives were; to describe the breast feeding practices that exist in Gulu district, to identify breast feeding patterns in relation to child health, to examine the challenges to proper breastfeeding of infants and children and to suggest appropriate interventions to improve breastfeeding practices in Gulu district. The study was conducted in Gulu district more specifically Lacor and Gulu referral hospitals. This study adopted a cross sectional study design utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. 200 women (aged 18-45 years) accessing outpatient services from the hospitals were selected using systematic random sampling to take part in the study and 10 health officials were also part of the study purposively sampled. Questionnaires and key informant interviews were employed to collect data from the respondents. Quantitative data was coded, edited and organized; univariate analysis and bivariate analysis were used. Peason’s Chi square tests (x^2) test statistics was also done for selected variables. The emerging statistical data were processed and analyzed manually (where possible) and also using SPSS and presented using frequencies. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis in accordance to the themes and objectives of the study and presented using MS-Word. Quotations were used to represent the participants’ voice and allow for validation of the data by the reader. In the study it was established that majority of mothers exclusively breast fed their children for at least 4 months. The greatest number of mothers introduced complementary foods after 6 months. As the study has shown, most mothers initiated breastfeeding within the first 24 hours after delivery though for different reasons a few mothers gave pre lacteal food to their babies. Majority of mothers gave colostrums to their children but a number of them did it unknowingly. A number of mothers breast fed on demand. The most common diseases among children included malaria and diarrhea. Poor level of hygiene by the mothers was established by the study and end result is that children suffered from nutrition related diseases; respondents also noted that support of husbands and other family members would greatly improve the current state of breast feeding within the area. Given the study it was recommended that counselors and medical personnel should all enlighten mothers on the management of lactation which is lacking in the district. Seminars on breast feeding process should be organized; stakeholders should all work together to come up with policies that will integrate early childhood development and nutrition as early as at primary level education. In light of this, it is concluded that a lot still needs to be done in designing programs that would ensure improvement of breastfeeding and child health in Gulu District.