Determinants of Breastfeeding for First Nations Women

Topic: Healthcare Research
Words: 601 Pages: 2


The article explores the challenges for First Nation women in the subject of breastfeeding. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends this type of feeding as the main for the newborn baby; up to 6 months, breastfeeding is recommended to be exclusive. Nevertheless, it is not widespread among First Nation Women in Canada, and less than half of them use breastfeeding with their kids. There are significant differences between social groups in Canada: the quality of life of white people is much higher, in general than those of indigenous people. Those issues negatively influence the health of First Nation Women and their children.

Theoretical Underpinnings

Embodiment is when social and cultural norms define which bodies the members of this social group will have. It defines the practices the members will do, for example, breastfeeding. The “embodiment of inequality” process results from a significant level of inequality between social groups of First Nation women and white women. The former have limited access to social goods and medical help, thus vulnerable to health problems. In addition, they often feel alienated from their own bodies, leading to their refusal to initiate breastfeeding.

Material and Methods

Sixty-five First Nation women were chosen to participate in this study. Children were two years old or less. They participated in the interview in groups of up to fourteen members in each. Each group session lasts approximately two hours. Some of the researchers do not have a Western cultural background: three were first Nation women, and others were from Asia. Discussions were recorded, transcribed, and then analyzed with qualitative methods.


Eighteen percent of all women who participated had an income of $18000-20000 per household, and thirty-nine percent received social assistance. Only forty-five percent of them initiated breastfeeding, at least with one child. Social factors, environmental factors, and intimacy factors were specified in this research.

Social Factors

Most of the participant women said that they consider breastfeeding the best possible choice for their kids. They often tell each other that breastfeeding is the best choice for their kids, even when they do not initiate it by themselves; in this way, they are not doing that even though they know that it is the best choice. They also often feel sadness after the child’s birthing, and this negatively influences their choice.

Poverty leads to frequent inability to buy commodities necessary for children: thus, children cannot be raised well. In addition to that, the indigenous population often has a terrible experience of trauma and abuse. Some of the women reported the abuse in schools and in childhood. Colonial history has its consequences: the violence and discrimination toward indigenous people left traumatic experiences in them. Participant women said they should learn how to connect with their children again.

Breastfeeding environments

First nation women used to sleep with their children, especially when breastfeeding. Due to their current social situation, many First Nation women live in poverty; thus, their children do not have enough room to live. Most women understand the harm of bad habits, such as smoking, but some of them continue to do this. Women often refuse to breastfeed due to problems with poverty and bad habits.

The practice of “evacuation” of pregnant women to the health center is widespread and is connected with high stress for them. In connection with possible traumas and postnatal depression, this stress means that many First nation women are in bad condition after the child birthing. It prevents breastfeeding and leads to hardships with kid raising in general. In addition to that, teen pregnancy is a growing concern among the indigenous people, worsening the situation even more.

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