Breastfeeding in Nigeria: a systematic review


  • Emmanuel O. Adewuyi Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Curtin University, Perth
  • Kazeem Adefemi Health & Social Relief Initiatives, Ilorin, Kwara State



Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding duration, Exclusive breastfeeding, Infant feeding, Nigeria


Breastfeeding confers numerous benefits on babies and mothers. Early initiation, ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ and breastfeeding for at least two years post-delivery are the recommended practices. This study aims to examine the trends of breastfeeding practice in Nigeria by reviewing available published studies. The online databases of PubMed, Science Direct and the Web of Knowledge were searched using relevant terms. Studies identified were screened for eligibility and those that met the inclusion criteria were included in this review. Graphs and regression equations were generated using Microsoft Excel® to illustrate the duration of and trends in, breastfeeding practices in Nigeria. This review adopts the WHO standard definitions for breastfeeding categories. A total of 24 studies met the inclusion criteria but only two of these adopted the standard WHO breastfeeding categories in estimating the rates of breastfeeding. The regression equations and graphs generated show a declining trend in the rates of ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ and an increasing trend in the mean duration of breastfeeding. The rate of ‘any breastfeeding’ was high. Breastfeeding duration varies across Nigeria, a possible reflection of differences in sociocultural practices. Various reasons were cited for discontinuation of breastfeeding, the commonest of these were maternal health problems and the demands of work.Breastfeeding is commonly practiced in Nigeria. However, the rate of ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ is low and declining. It is recommended that future studies on breastfeeding in Nigeria adopt the standard WHO definitions.


Ballard O, Morrow AL. Human milk composition: nutrients and bioactive factors. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2013;60(1):49-74.

Kramer MS. The Optimal Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding: A Systematic Review Document produced by the Department of Child and Adolescent Health. Geneva: Geneva: World Health Organization. 2002.

World Health Organization. Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices part 3: country profiles. 2010.

Eidelman AI, Schanler RJ, Johnston M. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841.

Stuebe A. The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants. Reviews in obstetrics and gynecology. 2009;2(4):222.

Victora CG, Horta BL, de Mola CL. Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. The Lancet Global Health. 2015;3(4):e199-e205.

Gupta A, Dadhich JP, Suri S. Infant Malnutrition/Breastfeeding☆. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences: Elsevier. 2015.

Jones G, Steketee RW, Black RE, Bhutta ZA, Morris SS. How many child deaths can we prevent this year? The Lancet. 2003;362(9377):65-71.

Edmond K, Zandoh C, Quigley MA, Amenga-Etego S, Owusu-Agyei S, Kirkwood B. Delayed breastfeeding initiation increases risk of neonatal mortality. Pediatrics. 2006;117(3):E380-E386.

Cai X, Wardlaw T, Brown DW. Global trends in exclusive breastfeeding. Int Breastfeed J. 2012;7(1):12.

National Population Commission. Nigeria 2013 Demographic and Health Survey. Abuja: National Population Commission. 2014.

Ogbo FA, Agho KE, Page A. Determinants of suboptimal breastfeeding practices in Nigeria: evidence from the 2008 demographic and health survey. BMC public health. 2015;15(1):259.

Black RE, Victora CG, Walker SP. Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet. 2013;382(9890):427-51.

Xu F, Qiu L, Binns C, Liu X. Breastfeeding in China: a review. 2009.

Juaid D, Binns C, Giglia R. Breastfeeding in Saudi Arabia: A review. 2014.

Inoue M, Binns Colin W, Otsuka K, Jimba M, Matsubara M. Infant feeding practices and breastfeeding duration in Japan: A review. International Breastfeeding Journal. 2012;7(1).

Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. Annals of internal medicine. 2009;151(4):264-69.

Binns CW, Fraser ML, Lee AH, Scott J. Defining exclusive breastfeeding in Australia. Journal of paediatrics and child health. 2009;45(4):174-80.

Onah S, Osuorah DI, Ebenebe J, Ezechukwu C, Ekwochi U, Ndukwu I. Infant feeding practices and maternal socio-demographic factors that influence practice of exclusive breastfeeding among mothers in Nnewi South-East Nigeria: a cross-sectional and analytical study. Int Breastfeed J. 2014;9:6.

National Health and Medical Research Council. How to use evidence: assessement and application of scientific evidence. Canberra. 2000.

Agho KE, Dibley MJ, Odiase JI, Ogbonmwan SM. Determinants of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2011;11:2.

Ojofeitimi EO, Olaogun AA, Osokoya AA, Owolabi SP. Infant feeding practices in a deprived environment: a concern for early introduction of water and glucose D water to neonates. Nutr Health. 1999;13(1):11-21.

Ojofeitimi EO, Esimai OA, Owolabi OO, Oluwabusi, Olaobaju OF, Olanuga TO. Breast feeding practices in urban and rural health centres: impact of baby friendly hospital initiative in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Nutr Health. 2000;14(2):119-25.

Okeahialam TC. Breast-feeding practices among Nigerian Igbo mothers. J Trop Pediatr. 1986;32(4):154-7.

Uwaegbute AC, Nnanyelugo DO. Differences in the infant-feeding practices in Urban and Rural Nigeria. Journal of Nutrition Education. 1987;19(2):83-9.

Kuti O, Adeyemi AB, Owolabi AT. Breast-feeding pattern and onset of menstruation among Yoruba mothers of South-west Nigeria. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2007;12(4):335-9.

Olayemi O, Aimakhu CO, Bello FA. The influence of social support on the duration of breast-feeding among antenatal patients in Ibadan. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2007;27(8):802-5.

Torimiro SE, Onayade AA, Olumese I, Makanjuola RO. Health benefits of selected global breastfeeding recommendations among children 0-6 months in Nigeria. Nutr Health. 2004;18(1):49-59.

Okolo SN, Adewunmi YB, Okonji MC. Current breastfeeding knowledge, attitude, and practices of mothers in five rural communities in the Savannah region of Nigeria. J Trop Pediatr. 1999;45(6):323-6.

Egbuonu I, Ezechukwu CC, Chukwuka JO, Ikechebelu JI. Breast-feeding, return of menses, sexual activity and contraceptive practices among mothers in the first six months of lactation in Onitsha, South Eastern Nigeria. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2005;25(5):500-3.

Lawoyin TO, Olawuyi JF, Onadeko MO. Factors associated with exclusive breastfeeding in Ibadan, Nigeria. J Hum Lact. 2001;17(4):321-5.

Ogunlesi TA. Maternal socio-demographic factors influencing the initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in a Nigerian semi-urban setting. Matern Child Health J. 2010;14(3):459-65.

Ogbo FA, Page A, Agho KE, Claudio F. Determinants of trends in breast-feeding indicators in Nigeria, 1999-2013. Public Health Nutr. 2015:1-13.

Agunbiade OM, Ogunleye OV. Constraints to exclusive breastfeeding practice among breastfeeding mothers in Southwest Nigeria: implications for scaling up. Int Breastfeed J. 2012;7:5.

Bamisaiye A, Oyediran MA. Breast-feeding among female employees at a major health institution in Lagos, Nigeria. Soc Sci Med. 1983;17(23):1867-71.

Ighogboja IS, Odumodu CU, Olarewaju RS. Breastfeeding pattern in Jos, Nigeria, before baby-friendly hospital initiative. J Trop Pediatr. 1996;42(3):178-9.

Isenalumhe AE, Oviawe O. Prelacteal feeds and breast-feeding problems. Indian J Pediatr. 1987;54(1):89-96.

Kazimi LJ, Kazimi HR. Infant feeding practices of the Igbo, Nigeria. Ecol Food Nutr. 1979;8(2):111-6.

Mudambi SR. Breast-feeding practices of mothers from Mid-Western Nigeria. J Trop Pediatr. 1981;27(2):96-100.

Oche MO, Umar AS, Ahmed H. Knowledge and practice of exclusive breastfeeding in Kware, Nigeria. Afr Health Sci. 2011;11(3):518-23.

Ojofeitimi EO. Breast-feeding patterns in a Nigerian maternity center. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1981;20(6):412-14.

Oni GA. Breast-feeding pattern in an urban Nigerian community. Journal of Biosocial Science. 1987;19(4):453-62.

Rehan N, Abashiya AK. Breastfeeding and abstinence among Hausa women. Stud Fam Plann. 1981;12(5):233-7.

Senbanjo IO, Oshikoya KA, Ogbera OA, Wright KO, Anga AL. Breastfeeding policy and practices at the general paediatric outpatient clinic of a teaching hospital in Lagos, Nigeria. International Breastfeeding Journal. 2014;9.

National Population Commission. Nigeria demographic and health survey 2008. Calverton, MD: National Population Commission and ORC/Macro. 2009.




How to Cite

Adewuyi, E. O., & Adefemi, K. (2017). Breastfeeding in Nigeria: a systematic review. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 3(2), 385–396.



Review Articles