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INTRODUCTION: Prelacteal feeding (PLF) is anything other than breastmilk given to newborns in the first few days of birth and/or before breastfeeding is established. PLF comes in many forms and is known as a challenge to optimal breastfeeding. Interestingly, both breastfeeding and PLF are common in Indonesia. This study investigated the association between PLF (any PLF, formula, honey, water and other milk) and breastfeeding duration. METHODS: This study used Indonesia Demographic and Health Surveys data from 2002, 2007 and 2017. Sample sizes were 5558 (2007), 6268 (2007) and 6227 (2017) mothers whose last child was aged 0-23 months. We used Cox regression survival analysis to assess the association between PLF and breastfeeding duration, estimating hazard ratios (HR) for stopping earlier. RESULTS: Overall PLF was prevalent (59%, 67% and 45% in 2002, 2007 and 2017, respectively), with formula being the most common (38%, 50% and 25%). No association between any PLF and breastfeeding duration in 2002 (HR 0.90 (95% CI 0.70 to 1.16)), but in 2007 and 2017, mothers who gave any PLF were more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier than those who did not (HR 1.33 (95% CI 1.11 to 1.61) and 1.47 (95% CI 1.28 to 1.69), respectively), especially in the first 6 months (HR 2.13 (95% CI 1.55 to 2.92) and 2.07 (95% CI 1.74 to 2.47), respectively). This association was more consistent for milk-based PLF. For example, HR in 2017 was 2.13 (95% CI 1.78 to 2.53) for prelacteal formula and 1.73 (95% CI 1.39 to 2.15) for other milk. The associations were inconsistent for the other PLF types. Prelacteal water showed no association while prelacteal honey showed some association with a longer breastfeeding duration in 2002 and 2007. CONCLUSION: The impact of PLF on breastfeeding duration varied by type. While this study supports current recommendations to avoid PLF unless medically indicated, the potential consequences of different PLF types on breastfeeding outcomes should be clearly communicated to healthcare providers and mothers. Further research should explore the reasons for the high PLF prevalence in this setting.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Glob Health

Publication Date





Child health, Cross-sectional survey, Epidemiology, Maternal health, Public Health, Humans, Breast Feeding, Indonesia, Female, Cross-Sectional Studies, Infant, Adult, Infant, Newborn, Young Adult, Health Surveys, Male, Time Factors, Adolescent, Infant Formula