The relationship between a mother and child is extremely important, especially with regard to breastfeeding habits. This relationship acts as a major predictor in the health outcome and development of the child. This study was carried out with the aim of assessing the role of exclusive breastfeeding in a determinant of infant development among nursing mothers in Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti state. Three (3) objectives and research questions were formulated to guide the study. The descriptive survey research design was adopted for the study. The population for the study was drawn from Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital. Simple random sampling was used to draw a sample size of two hundred and twenty (220) nursing mothers. A self-designed questionnaire was used in the data collection procedure. Data collected were analyzed using frequencies, mean and percentages. Findings revealed that exclusive breastfeeding practices was the most frequently used method by nursing mothers in breastfeeding their children. It was also discovered that socio-economic status and levels of nursing mothers’ education, was a positive determinants on the mother and child breastfeeding practices. The challenges to exclusive breastfeeding practices include non supportive work place/home environment (75.8%), time constraints (77.9%), low educational and awareness level of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding (79.1%), stress (85.1%), and cost of maintaining healthy diet for the mother (90.3%). Exclusive breastfeeding helped to stop maternal bleeding after delivery and helps to develop the emotional bond between mother and child. Exclusive breastfeeding method was discovered to promote the health of both mother and child; and to boost the immune system of the child. It was concluded that, uneducated mothers find it difficult to adapt to positive changes in breastfeeding patterns and rarely breastfed their children hygienically and adequately. Among the recommendations made was the need for health inspectors to visit rural places where nursing mothers are not educated to ensure healthy hygiene practices of exclusive breastfeeding.



1.1  Background to the study

The relationship between a mother and her child is extremely important, especially with regard to breastfeeding habits. These have an impact on the lives of children and mothers at an early stage and cause concern for health professionals and lay people (Agostoni, 2013). Breastfeeding is, according to Bamsaye (2013), the nursing of an infant or infant with breast milk. Babies have a sucking reflex that allows them to suck and swallow milk. With some exceptions, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies. Breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs, as well as the substance that promotes growth and helps combat infections. The Federal Ministry of Health and the International Organization, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), promote breastfeeding as the best way to feed babies, especially in their first year of life. Breastfeeding benefits mother and child physically, emotionally and mentally. Garters (2015) suggested that the child’s early breastfeeding helps combat the onset of certain diseases and promote the child’s physical well-being and healthy development. Breast milk is, by far, the healthiest form of milk for babies. Zu and Nkanginieme (2013) maintained the view that the main advantage of breastfeeding is that breast milk gives babies an important protection against chronic diseases like allergies and asthma and infectious diseases like meningitis, diarrhea, infections of the ear and pneumonia. The immune components of breast milk are constantly changing to satisfy babies and must be protected from new infections. As the baby’s own immunity develops, the concentration of antibodies and anti-infective agents in the milk gradually decreases. Breastfeeding facilitates the connection between mother and child, which satisfies her emotionally. The mother develops parenting behavior and the baby learns quickly. Zu and Nkanginieme (2013) found that the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the mother include the provision of essential nutrients and calories and is suitable for digestive capacity, absorption and excretion of babies.