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Culture: A determinant of breastfeeding in SCPHN practice

02 December 2023
Volume 4 · Issue 6


The health benefits of breastfeeding are well researched and are recognised by professional bodies both nationally and globally, yet breastfeeding rates for many countries globally fall short of their respective national targets. Efforts have been made within both maternity services and Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN) practice to provide training for professionals to improve breastfeeding rates, yet in many areas there remains a focus on the biological factors more than cultural beliefs, despite culture being widely accepted as an integral aspect of needs assessment in the field of SCPHN practice. This article explores the literature to identify cultural beliefs surrounding breastfeeding from both positive and negative perspectives, which further highlighted how SCPHNs can improve their practice in sensitively approaching this subject with new and expecting mothers. The purpose of this review was to identify the significance of culture as a determinant of breastfeeding and highlight potential methods for improving SCPHN practice in this area.

Regardless of the application, for many years the significance of culture has been widely accepted as an integral aspect of needs assessment in the field of SCPHN practice. However, it is suggested that the influence of cultural beliefs have been somewhat under-acknowledged in the context of infant feeding (Larsen and Kronborg, 2013). This is not to say it is not recognised, although increased emphasis could enhance SCPHN skills and practice, subsequently improving the support provided. Typical breastfeeding discussions have predominantly focussed on case studies and shared examples of white British families, yet the diverse nature of England suggests this may be insufficient, with 18% of the population identified as Black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic group (Office for National Statistics, 2021), which highlights the need to explore this in more depth.

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well researched and are recognised by professional bodies both nationally and globally (UNICEF, 2021; World Health Organization [WHO], 2021). Benefits which are commonly shared to support the education of parents and expecting parents include (Hatton-Bowers et al, 2017; UNICEF, 2021; WHO, 2021):

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