Infant feeding choices among Panamanian mothers: A qualitative study

Danae De La Cruz, Richard Philip Lee*, Justine Gallagher

*Corresponding author for this work

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Infant and child nutrition practices are among the most critical determinants of infant health and breastfeeding is considered the gold standard of infant feeding. Despite extensive public health interventions to promote breastfeeding, its prevalence has decreased in recent years in Panama, particularly in urban settings. There has been a nearly 20% drop in breastfeeding in the 10 years leading to 2020. Current literature often fails to elucidate the factors underpinning Panamanian mothers' decision making in relation to breastfeeding. This article explores the experiences, views, and decision making related to infant feeding choices of mothers in Panama City. The study used a qualitative approach, involving online semistructured interviews with seven participants. Utilizing the socioecological model enabled an understanding of the influence of the various, nested levels of a mother's social environment on behaviors and practices. Five themes were developed following analysis: “practical, bodily, and emotional challenges”; “workplace influences”; “family and friends’ support”; “the role of health care and healthcare professionals”; “the influence of social and cultural norms on decisions and practices.” The main barrier to breastfeeding was the lack of family support, especially from grandmothers. In contrast, private lactation consultation and partners' support were perceived as the best approaches for breastfeeding success, suggesting an urgent need for publicly available lactation support. This study demonstrates the importance of understanding the complexity of the social norms surrounding infant feeding, showing the challenges that mothers face in this process, and sheds light on the (public) interventions necessary to improve breastfeeding initiation and continuation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6010-6019
Number of pages10
JournalFood Science and Nutrition
Issue number10
Early online date6 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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