A student dissertation in USA has examined the experiences of breastfeeding in two communities in USA: Congolese immigrants and African Americans. Focus groups were organised for each community. 28 African American men participated and 20 Congolese men, all from Dallas County in USA. In addition, interviews were organised with African American fatherhood practitioners around USA.
Distinct differences emerged between the two communities.
Perceptions of breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding is an integral part of Congolese culture. Families assume it will happen – it does not require discussion by couples. Breastfeeding is seen as a God-given virtue rather than as a medical benefit.
- For African American men, experiences are influenced more by diverse personal and family relationships. A key benefit of breastfeeding is perceived as having smart and healthy children to be proud of. Some fathers also see the financial benefits of breastfeeding.
Supports for breastfeeding:
- The dominant support in Congolese families is the cultural norm and visibility of breastfeeding. Immigrant associations support this norm.
- In African and American families, the support of individual family members and friends is influential. The US Government WIC breastfeeding supporting program has a role, as do community fatherhood programmes.
Barriers to breastfeeding:
- There are particular challenges in the African American community, for example, family breakdown and single parenthood, particularly in urban areas. Heavy work demands on both parents create other pressures. Poverty and the fight just to survive push support for breastfeeding down the priority list for some African American men. African American churches are not supportive of breastfeeding. Family services commonly exclude men, particularly African American men.
In response to the challenges faced by African American fathers, the researcher has developed a proposal for a toolkit to promote breastfeeding in this community. The toolkit focuses on education/information, support/engagement and empowerment/ partnership. The key message of the proposed toolkit is “Bond Forever”, appealing to the aspiration of fathers to have a strong bond with the baby.
Mwamba MA (2019), What role do fathers’ cultural experiences play in the decision to support breastfeeding? Dissertation at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Header photo: NICHD. Creative Commons.