Attitudes to breastfeeding
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A women’s decision to initiate and continue breastfeeding is influenced by her attitude towards breastfeeding as well as the breastfeeding attitudes of significant referent people (e.g. partner, family and friends), and society in general. If she perceives that her breast milk will adequately nourish her infant and that breastfeeding is convenient and better for the health of her infant, then she will have positive attitudes towards breastfeeding. However, her efforts to breastfeed may be undermined by the attitudes of those around her, particularly in Western cultures by the attitude of her partner. Fathers have been shown to participate in and influence the choice of infant feeding method by acting as key supports or deterrents to breastfeeding by the mother. Without the emotional and practical support of their partners, most mothers will struggle to successfully establish and maintain breastfeeding. In Western cultures, while most people acknowledge that breastfeeding is the best way to feed infants, there is still a common perception that breastfeeding is a private function and that breastfeeding in public is inappropriate. This perception is formed in part by Western society’s inability to dissociate the functional and sexual role of the breasts. Furthermore, the way that breastfeeding is portrayed in the media does much to promulgate this perception. On the whole, breastfeeding is seldom portrayed in the entertainment media and, when it is, it is often presented as being problematic. The positive portrayal of breastfeeding on television and film and in other public arenas will go a long way towards making it ‘normal’ in our society; positively influencing a woman’s perception that breastfeeding is the social norm when it comes to feeding her infant.
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