THE INFANT FEEDING EXPERIENCES OF MI'KMAW WOMEN: A FEMINIST PHENOMENOLOGICAL INQUIRY
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Although breastfeeding rates among Mi'kmaw women are rising (38%), they remain lower than those of other Nova Scotia women (76%). Increasing the rates of breastfeeding could potentially impact the health of this population in positive ways. It has been reported that approximately 75% of First Nations people are unable to tolerate cow's milk products. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of Mi'kmaw women with infant, including breastfeeding or non-breastfeeding practices. Positioned within a feminist phenomenological methodology, this research used an interpretive framework, attentive to issues of gender and power, to explore the taken-for-granted experiences of Mi'kmaw women when choosing an infant feeding practice. Twenty-two women participated in the study through conversational interviews and a talking circle. Findings from the study included four themes: 1) Going It Alone - Web of Relationships; 2) Findings a Space...Living in Poverty. Is Anyone Listening?; 3) Is Breastfeeding Right for Me? It's My Choice - Respect My Choice; and 4) Understanding Our Time. Analysis of the findings provides an enhanced understanding of Mi'kmaw women's infant feeding experiences. This further supports strategies for the delivery of culturly sensitive, competent, and safe care by health care providers working with Mi'kmaw women and infants. It also offers potential for the development of culturally safe institutional, provincial, and federal infant feeding policies.