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Background: Early initiation of breastfeeding (EIBF) is one of the measures to reduce newborn mortality. Nurses and midwives are crucial healthcare workers to achieving EIBF.
Objective: To explore the knowledge and perceptions of nurses and midwives towards breastmilk and breastfeeding, EIBF and the perceived barriers to EIBF.
Methods: A cross-sectional quantitative study using an adapted standardized questionnaire which tested 4 domains of: knowledge about breastmilk and breastfeeding; the ability of the newborn to feed immediately after birth; the practice of skin-to-skin contact (SSC) for the newborn; and the practice of EIBF. The knowledge and perception of the respondents were categorized as good or poor if the total scores from the question-domains were ≥ 70% or < 70% respectively.
Results: The general knowledge and perception about breastmilk and breastfeeding initiation was good with 64.6% and 62.6 % of respondents respectively having scores ≥ 70. The perception of the newborn feeding ability and the role of SSC were poor with scores of 27.1% and 31.3% respectively. The leading perceived barrier to EIBF was the mother being on nil-per-oris after C/S (81.3%). Binary logistic regression applied to the predictors of good practice in EIBF showed that the participants’ length of stay in their current ward posting (p = 0.002), knowledge about breastmilk and breastfeeding (p = 0.04) and perception of SSC (p = 0.003) were the most significant.
Conclusion: Knowledge dissemination should prioritize the importance of EIBF and its perceived barriers.