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Colostrum avoidance, prelacteal feeding and late breast-feeding initiation in rural Northern Ethiopia

  • Nikki L Rogers (a1), Jemilla Abdi (a2), Dennis Moore (a1), Sarah Nd'iangui (a1), Linda J Smith (a3), Andrew J Carlson (a4) (a5) and Dennis Carlson (a4)...



To identify specific cultural and behavioural factors that might be influenced to increase colostrum feeding in a rural village in Northern Ethiopia to improve infant health.


Background interviews were conducted with six community health workers and two traditional birth attendants. A semi-structured tape-recorded interview was conducted with twenty mothers, most with children under the age of 5 years. Variables were: parental age and education; mother's ethnicity; number of live births and children's age; breast-feeding from birth through to weaning; availability and use of formula; and descriptions of colostrum v. other stages of breast milk. Participant interviews were conducted in Amharic and translated into English.


Kossoye, a rural Amhara village with high prevalence rates of stunting: inappropriate neonatal feeding is thought to be a factor.


Women (20–60 years of age) reporting at least one live birth (range: 1–8, mean: ∼4).


Colostrum (inger) and breast milk (yetut wotet) were seen as different substances. Colostrum was said to cause abdominal problems, but discarding a portion was sufficient to mitigate this effect. Almost all (nineteen of twenty) women breast-fed and twelve (63 %) reported ritual prelacteal feeding. A majority (fifteen of nineteen, 79 %) reported discarding colostrum and breast-feeding within 24 h of birth. Prelacteal feeding emerged as an additional factor to be targeted through educational intervention.


To maximize neonatal health and growth, we recommend culturally tailored education delivered by community health advocates and traditional health practitioners that promotes immediate colostrum feeding and discourages prelacteal feeding.

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