The impact of transnational migration on intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practice related to breast feeding

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OBJECTIVES: the aim of this study was to explore how migration from Bangladesh to the UK influenced the transmission of knowledge and practice related to breast feeding from one generation to the next. METHODS: this qualitative study used an ethnographic approach and comprised two focus group discussions with 14 grandmothers who had migrated from Bangladesh to the UK and in-depth interviews with 23 mothers of Bangladeshi origin who had breast fed in the UK within the previous five years. The focus group discussions and 10 of the interviews with mothers were conducted in Sylheti by a bilingual researcher. The study took place in four localities in northern England in 2008. FINDINGS: grandmothers and mothers of Bangladeshi origin emphasised the importance of intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practice related to breast feeding. However, migration disrupted this transmission through isolating women from their female kin, exposing them to a society in which breast feeding is mostly hidden and that privileges health professionals as an important source of information about breast feeding. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: understanding how migration influences the knowledge and advice that grandmothers pass on to younger mothers could help health professionals facilitate family support for breast feeding. Health professionals could start by asking grandmothers about their experiences of breast feeding in their countries of origin and the host country. Where relevant, previous poor professional support for breast feeding should be acknowledged. Health professionals should not underestimate their role in influencing breast feeding decisions of mothers of Bangladeshi origin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-446
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2013

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