Association Between Exclusive Breastfeeding and Infant Health Outcomes in Pakistan

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2019 Elsevier Inc. Purpose: The infant mortality rate in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world with most cases attributed to diarrheal or respiratory diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is recommended by the World Health Organization to achieve optimal growth and health, however, in Pakistan the rate of exclusive breastfeeding by mothers is <40%. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship of exclusive breastfeeding, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and fever among infants under the age of 6 months. Design and methods: The cross-sectional study analyzed secondary data from the 2017–18 Pakistan Demographic and Health-Survey. The sampling frame for the current study consisted of last-born children who were under the age of 6 months. The study sample consisted of 1033 infants under the age of 6 months. Results: The prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was 53.6%. Compared to infants who were not breastfed exclusively, infants who were had lower odds of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, and fever. The observed association was independent of potential confounders. Conclusions: Exclusive breastfeeding reduces the odds of childhood illnesses. Plausible explanations for the observed association may be related to human milk's contents including necessary nutrients to fulfill an infant's needs within first months of life. Additionally, continued exposure to breastfeeding also reduces exposure to other contaminated foods to ensure adequate nutrition for the infant. Practice implications: The findings have important implications for educating families and healthcare providers about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for optimal child health outcomes.

This document is currently not available here.