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Breastfeeding and Culture. Nancy P. Chin, PhD, MPH Associate Professor Department of Community & Preventive Medicine University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. Outline. Definitions Culture barriers to breastfeeding: a case from Brazil US culture and breastfeeding.

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breastfeeding and culture

Breastfeeding and Culture

Nancy P. Chin, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor

Department of Community & Preventive Medicine

University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

outline
Outline
  • Definitions
  • Culture barriers to breastfeeding: a case from Brazil
  • US culture and breastfeeding
culture edward tyler s definition
CultureEdward Tyler’s Definition

Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, laws, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. In other words, culture is a system of knowledge and beliefs which is shared by a group of people, which is acquired by learning, which is communicated through words, actions and artifacts, and which is passed from generation to generation.

culture
Culture
  • The set of mental models that people use to make sense of the world around them and to give things, people, and actions meaning.
culture5
Culture

Values Shared

Attitudes Learned

Beliefs Flexible

Practices Unconscious

Emotions

society
Society

Economics

Material Arrangements

Politics

Systems of Hierarchy

Race Sexual Orientation

Class Disability

Gender Ethnicity

death without weeping
Death Without Weeping
  • A case of infant feeding from Brazil
  • Anthropologist Nancy Sheper-Hughes, former Peace Corps worker in the area
dangers of bottle feeding
Dangers of Bottle Feeding
  • Among bottle fed infants 32% were malnourished vs 9% among breastfed infants
  • Bottle feed infants risk of mortality 14 times greater than breastfed infants
  • Among breastfed infants there was a 4 times greater risk of death if they were supplemented with bottle feedings vs infants exclusively breastfed
dangers of bottle feeding10
Dangers of Bottle Feeding
  • Contaminated water
  • Over-diluted powdered formula
  • Unsterilized equipment
decline in breastfeeding rates
Decline in Breastfeeding Rates
  • Between 1940 and 1975 the rate of breastfeeding for any length of time decreased from 96% to 40%
what is the cultural logic in operation here
What is the cultural logic in operation here?
  • Why would poor, illiterate women choose to bottle feed under these conditions?
  • How can we explain the cultural logic that makes bottle feeding the preferred choice?
  • What has changed between 1940 and 1975?
the economy
The Economy
  • Domestic employment
  • Sugar industry
    • Monopoly on employment
    • Monopoly on land
    • Comodification of food
social production of scarcity
Social Production of Scarcity
  • Not enough breast milk
  • Cultural knowledge of breast feeding lost
    • What should breast milk look like?
    • How to hold a BF infant?
    • When should they feed?
symbolic value of formula
Symbolic Value of Formula
  • What does it mean to have the baby’s father supply formula?
the body as a metaphor for women s lives
The Body as a Metaphor for Women’s Lives

“When [poor women] refer to their own milk as scant, bitter, curdled, sour, breast milk is a powerful metaphor speaking to the scarcity and bitterness of their lives as women.”

summary
Summary
  • What changed? The Economy
    • Living wage decreased
    • Availability of arable land
    • Food became scarce
  • Cultural logic?
    • Formula evidence of father’s commitment
    • Breast milk a metaphor for scarcity
  • Why the preference for formula?
    • Under conditions of scarcity bottles allowed for wage labor, father involvement, investing in relationships
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