Infant Feeding and Weaning in Three Countries

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Evolution has insured that most women are biologically equipped to give birth and then nourish their offspring for a period of time by producing milk. At some point, young humans stop receiving food from their mothers’ bodies and learn to consume plants and/or animals found in their environments in order to meet their nutritional needs. Within most other species of mammals, this transition happens at roughly the same age and to roughly the same range of foodstuffs for all individuals (Dettwyler 1999). Humans, however, as a uniquely global species with the powerful overlay of culture, exhibit a wide range of behaviors in this arena, with a wide variety of expressed reasons for their choices (Dettwyler & Fishman 1992, Dutta et al. 2006, Notzon 1984, Synott et al. 2007, Van Esterik 2002). Although there are certainly biological constraints on what can be fed successfully to a human infant, and a substantial body of scientific research showing that some choices promote better health outcomes than others (Allen et al. 1992, American Academy of Pediatrics 2009, Greer et al. 2008, Ip et al. 2007, Marlin et al. 1980, Öhlund 2008, Olsson et al. 2008), there is still a great deal of latitude in the exact content, timing, and introduction sequence of non-milk baby foods. Into this gap, each human culture pours a raft of beliefs, values, norms, and social practices. This paper attempts to summarize, compare, and contrast the dominant infant feeding practices in three modern cultures: the United States of America, Mexico, and Sweden. These three countries and the cultures they house were selected for a variety of reasons. The United States was chosen because the author is a U. S. American with direct experience of its infant feeding an... ... middle of paper ... ... Organization. Complementary Feeding: Report of the Global Consultation, and Summary of Guiding Principles for Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Child. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2002. World Health Organization. Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2003. World Health Organization. Guiding Principles for Feeding Non-breastfed Children 6-24 Months of Age. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press, 2005. World Health Organization. International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1981. Wutich, Amber and C. McCarty. “Social Networks and Infant Feeding in Oaxaca, Mexico.” Maternal and Child Nutrition 4.2 (2008): 121-35. Yaron, Ruth. Super Baby Food. 2nd ed. Peckville, PA: F. J. Roberts Publishing, 1998.

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