Breastfeeding Cultures Around the World

March 09, 2017

Breastfeeding Cultures Around the World

Breastfeeding has been a topic of conversation and controversy for many years. Last week, we talked about the history of breastfeeding. While the percentage of moms who breastfeed has been rising in the USA, today, we are going to bring you around the world to see how other cultures approach breastfeeding! 

breastfeeding cultures around the world


For many people in India, it is a traditional and common belief that colostrum (the early, nutrient-rich milk) that a mother produces, is considered “dirty” and “unclean.” As such, once the baby is born, the colostrum from the mother is expressed and discarded. During the first few days, it is common for the Indian mother to provide her newborn with formula or goat’s milk until the mom’s milk comes in. 

However, as reported by La Leche League, once a mother’s milk supply has begun, 95% of babies are breastfed as newborns. In addition, during the 4-6 month ages, 43% of babies are exclusively breastfed! 


You’ve heard the saying “breast is best,” but if you ask the French, they might not agree. France is known to have one of the lowest statistics for breastfeeding. Most women will nurse their babies for 3 months, while the amount of women nursing to 6 months is negligible. 

Many women return to work between 10 to 13 weeks after childbirth, which coincides with the decision to begin formula and bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding. This article, penned by a father living in France, gives further insight into why women are eager to end their breastfeeding journey quickly. Conversation regarding how “[breastfeeding] starts by robbing women of their most powerful weapons of seduction, then their style, and then their feminine mystery” seems to also be a common theme for why the French have minimal stats for breastfeeding!


According to the La Leche League, as of 2003, Kenyan women had an initial breastfeeding rate of 98%! At the same time, the amount of breastfeeding babies from the 4-6 month range was approximately 13%. However, by 2015, due to an increase in government implemented programs, this number had grown to 61% as noted by the National Demographic and Health Survey (p.167). 

As told by blogger Tara, if you were to hear a baby fuss in Kenya, you won’t be surprised to hear a stranger encourage you to provide your baby “nyonyo,” the Swahili word for breastfeeding! 

Predominantly Muslim Countries

Many Muslim countries follow the Quran, which encourages women to breastfeed their children for a minimum of 2 years. However, it is important to note that each country has their own rates of breastfeeding success. While in Arab countries, many women will employ the use of a wet-nurse to ensure their baby is receiving breastmilk, in the Western world, many Muslim women will choose to discontinue breastfeeding after a year. 

While breastfeeding is different in every country, it’s great to see that by educating & empowering women to nurse for as long as possible, the rates and statistics for children nursing over 6 months is on the rise in many countries!

By Myra Aslam @ Bliss Creative

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