The World Health Organization recommends initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery. Early initiation is beneficial for both mother and baby. Previous Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Surveys (ZDHS) have shown reduction in early initiation of breast feeding from 68% (2005/06) to 58% (2015). This study sought to investigate factors associated with early initiation of breast feeding among women aged 15–49 years in Zimbabwe.
Secondary analysis of ZDHS 2015 data was done to investigate the association between early initiation of breast feeding and maternal, provider and neonatal factors using multivariate logistic regression (n = 2192).
The majority of the study sample (78%) reported having practised early initiation of breastfeeding during their most recent delivery (preceding 24 months).Children who were put on skin to skin contact (AOR = 1.51, 95% CI 1.13–2.02) and those delivered by skilled attendants (AOR = 4.36, 95% CI 1.07–17.77) had greater odds of early initiation compared to those who were not. Other factors associated with early initiation were multiparity (AOR 1.82 95% CI 1.33–2.49) and rural residence (AOR 2.10 95% 1.12–3.93). However, having an abnormal birth weight, i.e. low birth weight (AOR 0.60 95% CI 0.36–0.99) and macrosomia (AOR = 0.42, CI 0.22–0.79) as well as delivery by caesarean section (AOR 0.1195% CI 0.06–0.19) were associated with reduced odds of early initiation.
Early initiation of breast feeding in Zimbabwe is mainly associated with residing in the rural areas and multiparity. The 78% rate of early initiation of breastfeeding was contrary to the 58% reported in the ZDHS findings. Interventions targeting an improvement in early initiation of breastfeeding must aim at women who deliver by caesarean section, women with babies of abnormal birth weight, primi-parous women and women residing in rural areas.