Myths Regarding Breastfeeding in Pakistan’s Lower Socioeconomic Strata
The fall in breast feeding practices in Pakistan is undoubtedly because of many factors, increased urbanization, rapid supply of infant formula, desire to be ‘modern’, thinking to get milk tested before nursing it to infant. In urban squatter areas of Pakistan human breast milk is regarded as a potential source of destruction. Some of the main points that lead to this situation are highlighted below:
Milk is thought to become poisonous to child or spoiled of a shadow cast over the mother. The source of the shadow is usually described as a dead or otherwise ritually impure person. Sometimes it is also attributed to the influence of an own infant who had died. Women also say that breast milk might become affected by a shadow if the mother had sexual intercourse and nurse without taking a ritual bath, in such a condition if shadow came over her, the infant would refuse to suck.
Evil eye is also thought of as a reason to turn the breast milk poisonous. Other thoughts about breast milk being poisonous were if infant refused to suck, if it fails to thrive in days or weeks after birth, if it cries a great deal, or if it has recurrent illness, particularly diarrhea. Under any of these conditions the mother may consult an elder in her own family or they may suspect that her milk has turned sore and tell her to get her milk tested. If nursing mother becomes pregnant it is also unanimously believed that either the nursing child or the fetus or both will be affected especially the nursing child will suffer.
In short there is a striking discrepancy between the large amounts of money spent on teaching people in the developing world what Westerners want them to do and the scant funds spent on learning what they themselves think and how they live. Understanding what women really worry about in their squatter settlements and rural villages will enable us to design better health education programs to help dispel those worries, to combat wasteful expenditures on attractive but fraudulent procedures, and ultimately to enhance prospects for child survival.
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