Breastfeeding: An Adaptive Process

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Abstract

Breastfeeding is not only a natural way of feeding children but also a parenting system that is practiced differently in diverse cultures depending on the ecological conditions and cultural values. In this study, videotapes of breastfeeding sessions and interviews with breastfeeding mothers of two ethnic groups of rural Cameroon, sedentary Nso farmers (n = 33) and nomadic Fulani pastorals (n = 18), were analyzed. The primary socialization goal of the two groups is the health and survival of the child in a hazardous environment. Yet their ideas about selfconstruct differ, with the Nso following a more interdependent developmental pathway and the Fulani following a more individualistic pathway. The results are discussed with respect to their relevance in defining a culturally informed developmental science, as well as developing intervention programs that are tailored to the needs of people in varying contexts.

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