Infant feeding supports among Arabic and Chinese speaking migrant mums – managing differing advice in a new country

A new study highlights the challenges migrant mothers may experience when managing conflicting infant feeding advice in Australia. Opportunities exist for health professionals to better support migrant mothers’ infant feeding practices, for example through engaging families and bi-cultural doctors.

Optimal feeding practices can establish lifelong, transgenerational and global health benefits. Migration and cultural factors impact infant feeding practices and the support mothers receive for optimal infant feeding.

This study compared the views of migrant mothers and health professionals and identified areas where health services can better support infant feeding practices of Chinese and Arabic migrant mothers.

Migrant mothers in this study turned to family networks and bi-cultural doctors, whom they trusted to provide culturally safe infant feeding support.  In contrast, maternal and child health services were under-utilised due to unfamiliarity with the services and a perceived lack of cultural appropriateness.  Some mothers who accessed these services gave examples of services that were not always culturally sensitive. Mothers also sought additional information through online sources and peers when appropriate information was perceived to be unavailable, altered or conflicting. Both mothers and health professionals recognised the challenges of managing conflicting infant feeding advice.

These findings derived from focus group discussions with 24 Arabic and 22 Chinese-Mandarin speaking migrant mothers with young children living in Sydney, and 20 health professionals who were mostly child and family health nurses from several health services in Sydney.

The lead author, Sarah Marshall (PhD candidate with EPOCH CRE), recommends health services to work closely with bi-cultural family doctors and health professionals, promoting universal MCH services and enhancing cultural sensitivity to improve infant feeding support for migrant mothers.

For further details, please contact Sarah Marshall sarah.marshall@sydney.edu.au

Article citation

Marshall S, Taki S, Love P, et al.  Navigating infant feeding supports after migration: perspectives of Arabic and Chinese mothers and health professionals in Australia. Women Birth. 2020;in-press https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2020.06.002

Acknowledgments

The author team: Sarah Marshall, Dr Sarah Taki, Dr Penny Love, Marianne Kearney, Nancy Tam, Konsita Kuswara, Dr Yvonne Laird, A/Prof Li Ming Wen and Prof Chris Rissel.

This work was supported by the New South Wales Health TRGS 2016; Sydney Local Health District; and the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in The Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood (EPOCH). We sincerely thank the participants who kindly shared their time and experiences, and our many project partners and contributors.

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