Culture may be defined as practices, values, and norms which can be shared or learned, and may correlate with race, nationality, or ethnicity.42
What a woman learns about breastfeeding is often learned from her mother and reflects her culture’s attitudes and beliefs toward breastfeeding.
It is important to evaluate a mother’s cultural influence on breastfeeding:
Strengthen the support the mother receives by using effective and culturally aware communication.
Culture is not limited to ethnicity, but may also involve a number of other factors, such as:
Potential barriers may hinder breastfeeding in immigrant families, including:
When counseling mothers of culturally diverse backgrounds, it is important to remember:
The AAP Residency Curriculum provides additional information on cultural competency and breastfeeding.38 These cultural case studies can be found here.
Professional Lactation Consultant:
An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant—a professional certification with prerequisite coursework and clinical experience. IBCLCs perform professional comprehensive clinical lactation consultations, in a hospital, outpatient or home setting.
Certified Breastfeeding Educators and Counselors:
These individuals have taken a multi-day course, such as the Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) course or the Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) course, and are prepared to counsel, coach and instruct breastfeeding families in uncomplicated situations. Many certified breastfeeding educators and counselors must participate in continuing lactation education to maintain their certifications. Health care professionals, such as RNs, MDs or RDs may complete such a certification course to augment their training or to prepare to sit for the IBCLC exam and become an IBCLC.
A peer counselor is a mother with personal breastfeeding experience. WIC and La Leche League peer counselors undergo training to support new mothers to breastfeed successfully.
Woman, Infant, and Children (WIC) program:
The WIC Program offers free nutrition education, referrals and healthy foods to qualifying pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children under the age of five. Approximately half of all babies born in the United States are eligible for WIC.
WIC Breastfeeding Services:
Visit http://www.mass.gov/wic for more information about program eligibility in Massachusetts.
La Leche League:
La Leche League provides education, information and encouragement for women who want to breastfeed. La Leche League hosts monthly group meetings and offers mother-to-mother support at no charge. More information available at http://lllmarivt.org/
Baby Café offers free breastfeeding support from specially trained staff for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. More information available at Baby Cafe USA
Nursing Mothers Council:
Provides free breastfeeding support, trainings to become breastfeeding counselors, and offers continuing education to health care providers. Nursing Mothers Council hosts monthly group meetings and offers mother-to-mother support at no charge. More information available at http://www.bace-nmc.org/
Access Zipmilk www.zipmilk.org to find listings for each of these resources near where your patients live or work.
ZipMilk.org is not available in every state yet. It is currently in Ma, CT, GA, MT, NJ, NC, NJ, and WI. If you want to know what is available in your state, please contact your state breastfeeding coalition.