Tradition and change in the Northern Alberta Woodlands Cree: implications for infant feeding practices

  • Neander W
  • Morse J
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Abstract

Using anthropological, ethnographic methods of participant observation and interactive, unstructured interviews, we compared traditional and present-day infant feeding practices of the Northern Alberta Woodland Cree. Twelve elderly multigravidae who used traditional ways of childbearing and rearing and 12 women who used present-day practices served as informants. The major change in childbearing was the removal of childbirth from the household to the hospital. This has resulted in the loss of social support and doulas for mothers, who feel insecure and afraid at this time. Infant feeding methods have changed from breastfeeding to the widespread use of canned milk and, if present-day infants are breastfed, it is only for a short time. Both the traditional and present-day mothers introduced solid foods relatively early, but the traditional mothers premasticated the infants' food rather than using commercial baby food or a blender. Following the traditional practices, mothers felt it was important to keep the breasts warm when lactating, and they were reluctant to feed the infant colostrum immediately after delivery. The importance of understanding the cultural context of infant feeding practices is discussed

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Authors

  • W. L. Neander

  • J. M. Morse

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