This study set out to investigate the relationship between breastfeeding and the nutritional status of children in Ghana. This stems from the fact that in spite of conflicting research findings on the benefits of prolonged breastfeeding, there is intensive breastfeeding compaign going on in the country. The 1998 GDHS data set was used in this study. Specifically, data on breastfeeding and other child feeding practices, childhood illnesses and anthropometry as well as some background information on mothers were utilised in this study. In all, data on a total of 2108 children aged 0-3 years were analysed. Bivariate analysis and linear regression models were used in analysing the data. Findings of the study show that almost 100% of Ghanaian children are breastfed for some time of their lives. The mean duration of breastfeeding was 19 months with mothers from urban areas and mothers with higher education breastfeeding for shorter periods than their counterparts. Other factors that significantly influenced the duration of breastfeeding included the age, educational level and employment status of mother, place of residence and type of toilet facility, morbidity especially diarrhoea and sex of household head. The study further revealed that breastfeeding beyond 18 months of age is associated with increased risk of malnutrition. (This finding is consistent with other studies from Ghana (Brakohiapa et al., 1988 and Nube and Asenso- Okyere, 1996) and other countries). The negative association between prolonged breastfeeding and nutritional status may be partially explained by the fact that children who continue to breastfeed beyond 18 months of age may be deprived of adequate qualities and quantities of supplementary foods either because of their impoverished situation or simply because their mothers are ignorant of the need to enrich and give adequate meals to supplement breastfeeding. It is also possible that such children may not have developed good appetite for other meals owing to delayed introduction of supplementary foods.
In conclusion, the results of the find ings presented in this study show that, there is some evidence to suggest that prolonged breastfeeding beyond 18 months of age in Ghana is negatively associated with increased risk of malnutrition even after controlling for confounding variables. The policy implication from this study is that even though the promotion of breastfeeding is in the right direction, there is the urgent need for health workers to emphasis the need for mothers to give their children adequate qualities and quantities of supplementary foods in addition to breast-milk. Mothers should also be made to consider breastfeeding a secondary source of food (energy) for their children after the first six months of age. This will encourage the children to develop better appetite for supplementary foods from which they derive their daily energy requirement. These findings were however, limited by the fact that the GDHS data was inadequate in investigating the relationship between breastfeeding and nutritional status. Secondly, the findings are also limited by methodological errors in the study.
In view of these limitations, it is suggested that further research be carried out using different methodological approaches. Further studies can also be carried out to assess the impact of prolonged breastfeeding on maternal health and nutritional status so as to ensure that extended breastfeeding is not done at the expense of mothers’ health.
Digitize Africa, P (2021). “Does Prolonged Breast Feeding Enhance Nutritional Status? Evidence from Ghana. Afribary.com: Retrieved June 21, 2021, from https://afribary.com/works/does-prolonged-breast-feeding-enhance-nutritional-status-evidence-from-ghana
Project, Digitize Africa. "“Does Prolonged Breast Feeding Enhance Nutritional Status? Evidence from Ghana" Afribary.com. Afribary.com, 13 Mar. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/does-prolonged-breast-feeding-enhance-nutritional-status-evidence-from-ghana . Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.
Project, Digitize Africa. "“Does Prolonged Breast Feeding Enhance Nutritional Status? Evidence from Ghana". Afribary.com, Afribary.com, 13 Mar. 2021. Web. 21 Jun. 2021. < https://afribary.com/works/does-prolonged-breast-feeding-enhance-nutritional-status-evidence-from-ghana >.
Project, Digitize Africa. "“Does Prolonged Breast Feeding Enhance Nutritional Status? Evidence from Ghana" Afribary.com (2021). Accessed June 21, 2021. https://afribary.com/works/does-prolonged-breast-feeding-enhance-nutritional-status-evidence-from-ghana