Dueling Cultures: How Hispanic Women Reconcile Infant Feeding Options
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Breastfeeding has been demonstrated to be a health promoting and health protective feeding method for infants. National health statistics show that, although Hispanic women initiate breastfeeding at rates higher than the national average, there is a steeper drop in breastfeeding rates during the first six months of a child’s life for this population (compared to other racial/ethnic groups). Previous breastfeeding research points to hospital experiences, social support, and work environments as explanations for decreased breastfeeding rates. For Hispanics specifically, research has linked increased acculturation among immigrant populations with a decrease in health protective behaviors. For native-born Hispanic women, dual cultural adaptation including maintaining or breaking away from traditionally gendered family structures may have more importance. Analysis of interviews with 18 Hispanic mothers showed emotional and practical support working in tandem to override the breastfeeding obstacles mothers face. Mothers with emotional support from at least one key individual in their life, backed by practical support in taking care of household or other responsibilities, allowed women to meet their breastfeeding goals. Further, dual cultural adaptation plays a complex role in breastfeeding. While adapting to a more modern American lifestyle, including two working parents, may decrease breastfeeding duration, maintaining a traditionally gendered family structure may decrease it as well.