Author(s): Fatimah S, SitiSaadiah HN, Tahir A, Hussein IMI, Ahmad FY
In Malaysia, the National Breastfeeding Policy recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued up to two years. Since the 1990s, several breastfeeding promotion programmes had been implemented in the country. This article reports the findings on the prevalence of breastfeeding practice from The Third National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS III) which was conducted in 2006. A total of 2167 mothers or carers of children below two years old were interviewed representing 804,480 of the estimated population of children aged below 2 years in Malaysia. Respondents were asked whether various types of liquid or solid food were given to the child at any time during the preceding 24-hour period. The overall prevalence of ever breastfed among children aged less than 12 months was 94.7% (CI: 93.0 - 95.9). The overall prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding below 6 months was 14.5% (CI: 11.7 - 17.9). Prevalence of timely initiation was 63.7% (CI: 61.4 - 65.9) and the continued prevalence of breastfeeding up to two years was 37.4% (CI: 32.9 - 42.2). The findings suggest that the programmes implemented in the last ten years were effective in improving the prevalence of ever breastfeeding, timely initiation of breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding up to two years. However, the challenge is to improve exclusive breastfeeding practice. Longterm community-based interventions need to be carried out in partnership with the existing health care system, focusing on discouraging the use of water and infant formula, especially in the first few months of life.