Abstract: Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as a feeding practice where infant receives no other food or drink besides breast milk as recommended by national and international organizations. In Kenya, infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices are sub-optimal. The Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2008-09 report indicated that exclusive breastfeeding is not common as only 32 % of infants less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed. The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding are outlined. This study focused on exploring maternal knowledge and practices on exclusive breastfeeding among women of reproductive age with the aim of intervening at community level and also informing policy makers in order to reduce infant morbidity and mortality rates. This was a cross-sectional study carried out at Shirere village in Kakamega County, Kenya. Mothers with children aged 6 months to 5 years were recruited in the study. Structured interviewer administered questionnaires were used to collect data. Data was analyzed using SPSS and presented using frequency tables, bar graphs and pie charts. The results of the study revealed that most mothers had deficit in knowledge on exclusive breastfeeding and majority were not practicing it in the first 6 months of infant life. There is need for more awareness and education to mothers on what entails exclusive breastfeeding and the benefits of it to enhance the practice among women of reproductive age.
Keywords: Exclusive breastfeeding, knowledge, practices, Shirere, Kakamega, Kenya