Threats to the Tradition and Practices of Breastfeeding in Refugees Following Resettlement in Tarrant County




Raines-Milenkov, Amy
Moreno, Tanir
Baker, Eva
Durbin, Katherine
Kwentua, Victoria
Thein, Emelda
Mudey, Halimo
Subedi, Radhika
Rudasingwa, Laurette


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Background: Few studies have investigated breastfeeding in refugee populations resettled in the United States. Of those that exist, studies have found that refugees face many challenges to exclusively breastfeeding their children due to conflict between their traditions and the U.S. culture, economy, and health care system. However, there has been no research studying these difficulties among recently arrived populations of refugees, such as the Bhutanese and Karen. The purpose of this study is to identify factors that threaten to disrupt breastfeeding practices in recently arrived populations of refugees following resettlement in Tarrant County. Methods: Data for this study comes from previously collected focus group transcripts. Secondary data analysis was used from 5 focus groups from the Bhutanese, Karen, and Somali community. Thematic analysis was used to identify significant themes in the transcripts relating to the subject of the study. Analysis included reading of the text, coding the data, theme identification, and consolidating the information in order to identify the three primary threats to breastfeeding practices. Results: Three main themes emerged. These included the influence of health care providers, the perception of existing U.S. breastfeeding practices, and the interference of work duties or financial issues. These influences were consistently found to have a negative impact on the continuation of exclusive breastfeeding among each refugee population. Conclusions: Refugees are at a significant disadvantage of losing breastfeeding practices following resettlement and adjusting to a new culture in the U.S. However, the tradition and practice of exclusive breastfeeding should be a protected and promoted behavior. Cultural competence and consideration should be incorporated into the education of health care workers in order to promote breastfeeding and address, and when possible, remove threats to this positive maternal behavior.