Prelacteal feeding practices in Pakistan: A mixed-methods study

Muhammad Asim, Muhammad Asim, Muhammad Asim, Zarak Husain Ahmed, Mark D. Hayward, Elizabeth M. Widen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Prelacteal feeding, the feeding a newborn substances or liquids before breastfeeding, is a common cultural practice in Pakistan, but is associated with neonatal morbidity and mortality because it delays early initiation of breastfeeding. In this study, we sought to examine the social and cultural factors associated with prelacteal feeding in Pakistan. Methods: This mixed-method study used data from the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-13. Findings from the survey were complemented by qualitative interviews with mothers and healthcare providers. In a subset of PDHS dyads (n = 1361) with children (0-23 months), descriptive statistics and bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analysis examined factors associated with prelacteal feeding. The qualitative study included in-depth interviews with six mothers and six health care providers, which were analyzed using NVivo software version 10. Results: In PDHS, a majority of children (64.7%) received prelacteal feeding. The most common prelacteal food was milk other than breast milk (24.5%), while over a fifth (21.8%) of mothers reported giving honey and sugar water. Factors associated with prelacteal feeding included: birth at public health facilities (AOR 0.46, 95% CI 0.02, 0.95), maternal primary education (AOR 2.28, 95% CI 1.35, 3.85), and delayed breastfeeding initiation (AOR 0.03, 95% CI 0.01, 0.61). In our qualitative study, the major themes found associated with prelacteal feedings included: easy access to prelacteal substances at health facilities, deliveries in private health facilities, prelacteals as a family tradition for socialization, insufficient breast milk, Sunna of Holy Prophet, and myths about colostrum. Conclusions: These data indicate that prelacteal feeding is a well-established practice and social norm in Pakistan. Policies and interventions aimed at promoting breastfeeding need to take these customs into consideration to achieve the desired behavioral changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalInternational Breastfeeding Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2020


  • Delayed breastfeeding
  • Home and hospital deliveries
  • Insufficient breast milk
  • Pakistan
  • Prelacteal


Dive into the research topics of 'Prelacteal feeding practices in Pakistan: A mixed-methods study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this