Objective: The purpose of the study was to explore the network that the social actors form around the mother with a neonate and the roles they play, either as support or as an obstacle of exclusive breast-feeding.
Material and methods: We applied a social network survey in two stages: in the first one, we asked mothers with babies under six months of age who had helped them breast-feed their babies and who had had a bearing on not letting them do it. Later, we asked other mothers who had told them to give formula, water, tea or solid food to the babies. With the answers we formed two "cases by actors" matrices. We computed the frequencies to find out those people that most influenced the mother for and against exclusive breast-feeding. We also graphed the results from the matrix to visualize the answers.
Results: The maternal grandmother of the child, the physician and the paternal grandmother appeared as those who most positively contributed with exclusive breast-feeding. Paradoxically, they are the same who most influenced its interruption.
Discussion: We were looking for a social network to support exclusive breast-feeding and another one to hinder it, but the two networks turned out to be very similar. The same characters who help a mother to breast-feed are the ones who make her stop. The implication for an intervention program is that it is necessary to strengthen some knowledge and inhibit some other within the same group of people.