Is breast best? Perceptions of infant feeding

Rachel L. Shaw, Louise Wallace, Manvinder Bansal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored the reasons why young women from low income areas are among those least likely to breastfeed. Focus groups were conducted with 15 health professionals and 11 young, first time mothers were interviewed. Health professionals participating believed that white communities endorsed bottle feeding while Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, although they accepted breastfeeding more readily, were likely to give prelacteal feeds of non-breast milk and to delay weaning. The interviews with mothers revealed a belief that 'breast is best' but factors intervened in a detrimental way resulting in the decision not to breastfeed or in early cessation. Participating mothers expected breastfeeding to be painful and were preoccupied with feeding and weight gain. The desire to have 'fat bonnie babies' demonstrated the mothers' moral attempts to be perceived as 'good mothers' although their actions went against the knowledge that 'breast is best'. Recommendations include educating health professionals about subcultures in their communities and reversing the misconception that breast milk is insufficient for a baby's healthy development. Promoting breastfeeding must include the crucial message that breast milk contains all the nourishment a baby needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-303
Number of pages5
JournalCommunity Practitioner
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • breastfeeding
  • bottle feeding
  • nutrition
  • low-income
  • teenage
  • qualitative research


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