"Creating a Breastfeeding Culture" is a wonderful example of a paper on child development. Because of the proven beneficial effects of breastfeeding on infant growth and development, it is important that the factors affecting the rate at which breastfeeding occurs, so that problems, if any, may be identified and addressed accordingly. Zareai et al. (2007) identify these factors by comparing and contrasting Australia and Iran, which enjoy low and high breastfeeding rates, respectively. According to this study, the differences in national policies, in-hospital and out-of-hospital practices, as well as culture, all contribute to the disparity between Iran and Australia in terms of the rate of breastfeeding. Unlike Iran that promotes breast milk substitutes, the Australian government encourages infant milk formula, baby foods, baby juices, bottles, and teats.
In addition, the government of Australia does not subsidize the antenatal care classes of mothers. Thus, while Iranian mothers get their antenatal care classes for free, those in Australia have to pay at least $12.50 per class. Moreover, the Australian government does not have legislation that mandates providing paid maternity leave for breastfeeding mothers. In addition, Iran strictly follows the suggestions of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the optimization of breastfeeding practices in the hospital.
This may have resulted from the training the Iranian health care professionals (HCPs) undergo in the area of lactation. Such training is neglected in Australia, and only a few Australian HCPs undergo sufficient training on lactation and breastfeeding. As such, vital steps for breastfeeding like the routine initiation of skin-to-skin contact by rooming-in of the baby, and no food or drink other than breast milk are not efficiently passed through from experts to mothers. Upon release from the hospital, Iranian HCPs visit mothers newly released from the hospital at regular intervals postpartum.
In these house visits, the babies’ anthropometric measurements are taken and given to mothers to show how beneficial their breast milk is for their babies. In Australia, even out-of-hospital breastfeeding training is seldom performed. This may result from the low number of appropriate HCPs and the subsequent high prices of their services. Accounting for Iran’ s and Australia’ s cultural differences, Zareai and colleagues (2007) noted that breastfeeding is the norm in Iran.
This is because Islam, which is the religion of most of the Iranian population, teaches the breastfeeding of infants for two complete years. In addition, smoking, and subsequently premature weaning, are less common among Iranian than Australian mothers. To improve breastfeeding rates, it seems to be imperative that government support is present for widespread breastfeeding initiation to succeed, especially when it is not inherent in the culture of the population to breastfeed their infants. This may start with giving free training to HCPs.
However, as it should also be in Iran, this training should be continuous based on the developments in the field. While HCP training is on the way, the mothers may be informed by handing out accessible and easy-to-understand materials that allow the self-study of proper breastfeeding. Aside from the government, the private sector, through the media, should also do its part in promoting breastfeeding. This may not be initially adopted, because of the additional cost the companies may incur (because of low sales of infant formulas and/or wages for employees on maternity leave), but with compromises such as subsidies for those complying to the heed of promoting breastfeeding, extended media exposure of this natural practice is possible. With the application of these suggestions to the United States, which has an unhealthy breastfeeding rate, the country will have 911 less infant mortality at 90% breastfeeding compliance, and 741 at 89% compliance (Bartick and Reinhold, 2010).
Bartick, M. & Reinhold, A. (2010). The Burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: A pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics, 125, e1048-e1056.
Zaeai, M., Obrien, M.L., & Fallon, A.B. (2007). Creating a breastfeeding culture: A comparison of breastfeeding practises in Australia and Iran. Breastfeeding Review, 15(2), 15-24.