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Cultural Barriers to Exclusive Breastfeeding by Mothers in a Rural Area of Cameroon, Africa

Authors

  • Peter Nwenfu Kakute Nurse-Midwife,

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    • Peter Kakute, Nurse-Midwife, is the supervisor of the Trained Birth Attendant Program of the Life Abundant Primary health care (LAP), Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board.

  • John Ngum MPH, MD,

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    • John Ngum, MPH, MD, is Hospital Manager and District Medical Officer of the Tiko District Health Services, Tiko, South West Province, Cameroon.

  • Pat Mitchell RGN, RMN,

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    • Pat Mitchell, RGN, RMN, is Director of the Life Abundant Primary health care (LAP), Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board.

  • Kathryn A. Kroll CNM, MSN,

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    • Kathryn A. Kroll, CNM, MSN, is Principal of the Private Training School for Health Personnel, Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board.

  • Gideon Wangnkeh Forgwei Medical Anthropologist,

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    • Gideon Forgwei, Medical Anthropologist, is Data Analyst for the CBCHB TB and AIHS Prevention and Control Programs, Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board.

  • Lillian Keming Ngwang,

  • Dorothy J. Meyer CNM, MPH

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    • Dorothy J. Meyer, CNM, MPH (Capt, USPHS, Ret), provides volunteer consultation services to the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board with emphasis on maternal child health.


  • Lillian Ngwang provides technical assistance for staff of the Life Abundant Primary health care (LAP), Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board.

Dorothy J. Meyer, CNM, MPH, 3243 South Gila Drive, Flagstaff, AZ 86001-6552. E-mail: DotJMeyer@aol.com

Abstract

Because of the known nutritional and health benefits to the infant, the World Health Organization recommends that women in resource-poor countries exclusively breastfeed until their babies reach 6 months of age. In the primarily rural geographical region of the North West Province of Cameroon, previous studies identified the prevalence of breastfeeding to be 90%. It is common knowledge that women are culturally encouraged to mix-feed their infants, but the extent of these feeding practices is not known. The objective of this study was to identify the extent of mixed feeding/supplementation and the cultural/social barriers to exclusive breastfeeding. All women surveyed introduced water and food supplementation prior to 6 months of age, with more than 38% giving water in the first month of life. Mothers identified cultural factors influencing their decision to mix-feed their babies, which included 1) pressures by village elders and families to supplement because it is a traditional practice, 2) belief that breast milk is an incomplete food that does not increase the infants weight, 3) belief that all family members should receive the benefit of food grown in the family farm, and 4) the taboo of prohibiting sexual contact during breastfeeding.

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