Aims: To describe the experiences of Turkish women regarding traditional breastfeeding practices.
Background: Breastfeeding is a popular practice in Turkey. Nevertheless, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is quite low. Merely about 16% of infants aged between 2-3 months are exclusively breastfed, whereas those fed with supplementary foods are 78%. In the light of this data, we argue that traditional breastfeeding practices may be the underlying reason for low rate of breastfeeding. Significant as it is, however, this subject matter has largely been overlooked in the literature in Turkey.
Design: A descriptive, qualitative study based on in-depth interviews, with a purposive sample of 24 mothers of four to- 24-month-old babies.
Methods: The background information of the mothers was obtained from the Mother and Child Health and Family Planning Centre that offers specific services for mothers. Mothers were visited at home and data were gathered through semistructured and in-depth, audio-taped interviews. The collected data were analysed using the content analysis method.
Results: Three themes emerged from the participants' descriptions of their breastfeeding experiences: (1) influence of the older family members, (2) influence of social learning and (3) influence of the religion.
Conclusion: This study concluded that traditional breastfeeding practices are still prevalent among mothers, regardless of their age and level of education. Breastfeeding behaviour of mothers was mostly shaped by various cultural social and religious influences imposed on them by their family, close social network and religious community.
Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses can encourage mothers for exclusive breastfeeding by means of individual- and social-based training programmes, which they will prepare in view of traditional breastfeeding practices.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.