The aim of this study was to describe and compare breastfeeding practices in rural and urban areas of Vietnam and to study associations with possibly influencing person and household factors. This type of study has not been conducted in Vietnam before.
Totally 2,690 children, born from 1st March 2008 to 30th June 2010 in one rural and one urban Health and Demographic Surveillance Site, were followed from birth to the age of 12 months. Information about demography, economy and education for persons and households was obtained from household surveys. Standard statistical methods including survival and regression analyses were used.
Initiation of breastfeeding during the first hour of life was more frequent in the urban area compared to the rural (boys 40% vs. 35%, girls 49% vs. 40%). High birth weight and living in households with large number of assets significantly increased the probability for early initiation of breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding at three months of age was more commonly reported in the rural than in the urban area (boys 58% vs. 46%, girls 65% vs. 53%). The duration of exclusive breastfeeding as well as of any breastfeeding was longer in the rural area than in the urban area (medians for boys 97 days vs. 81 days, for girls 102 days vs. 91 days). The percentages of children with exclusive breastfeeding lasting at least 6 months, as recommended by WHO, were low in both areas. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding was significantly shorter for mothers with three or more antenatal care visits or Caesarean section in both areas. High education level of mothers was associated with longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding in the rural area. No significant associations were found between duration of exclusive breastfeeding and mother’s age, household economy indicators or household size.
Intervention programs with the aim to promote breastfeeding are needed. Mothers should particularly be informed about the importance of starting breastfeeding early and to prolong exclusive breastfeeding. In order to reach the WHO recommendation of six months exclusive breastfeeding, we propose an extended maternity leave legislation to at least six months.
Keywords: Breastfeeding, Urban, Rural, Hanoi, Vietnam