‘Breast is not always best’: South Asian women’s experiences of infant feeding in the UK within an acculturation framework

Choudhry, Kubra and Wallace, Louise M. (2012). ‘Breast is not always best’: South Asian women’s experiences of infant feeding in the UK within an acculturation framework. Maternal and Child Nutrition, 8(1) pp. 72–87.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2010.00253.x


Acculturating to a host country has a negative impact on immigrant women's breastfeeding practices, particularly when coming from countries where breastfeeding rates are higher than Western countries. Whether this is true of those immigrating to the UK remains to be investigated. The study aimed to explore whether acculturating to the UK had detrimental effects on breastfeeding practices of South Asian women, and to provide explanations as to how acculturation may have exerted its influence.

Twenty South Asian women completed semi-structured interviews exploring infant feeding experiences. Data were thematically analysed. A bidimensional measure assessed women's acculturation status.

Women displaying low acculturation levels were aware of living in a formula-feeding culture but this had little influence on breastfeeding intentions/behaviours; drawing upon South Asian cultural teachings of the psychological benefits of breast milk. These women opted to formula-feed in response to their child's perceived demands or in a bid to resolve conflict; either when receiving information about the best feeding method or between their roles as a mother and daughter-in-law. Highly acculturated women also experienced such conflict; their awareness of the formula-feeding culture governed feeding choice.

The findings provide a picture of how acculturation may affect South Asian women's breastfeeding intentions and behaviours; encouraging health service providers to meet the varying needs of an acculturating population. If breastfeeding is to be encouraged, it is necessary to understand factors influencing feeding choice; with particular attention to the acculturation pathways that may govern such decisions. This paper highlights ways to tailor information for South Asian women depending on levels of acculturation.

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