Breast feeding is a very significant activity in human life because the human milk contains important food nutrients and calories that are vital in the growth and health of children during early ages. This essay discusses the key distinctions between breastfeeding practices of Australian and Iranian women. It also brings out the factors that lead to these differences including the cultural ones.
In Australia, the breastfeeding rate remains very low. This is evident from the Australia's 2001 National Health Survey results which shows that only 54 percent of the babies below the age of three months are fully breastfed. Also, the babies were not properly breastfed at the age of six months. This is because the mothers in Australia ceases to breastfeed before the required six months period defined by the World Health Organization are over. On the other hand, a comparatively high breastfeeding rate at the age of six to twelve months is practiced by mother5s in Iran. Unlike to Australia, the mothers in Iran practice exclusive breastfeeding at the ages of three and six months and the respective percentages of the breastfed babies are 67.1 and 56.
Factors leading to the above differences
Iran adopted and implemented all the aspects of the national program that promotes breastfeeding. This was the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes. On the other hand, Australia has only implemented part of the Code aspects through Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula agreement and the code does not involve the marketing of baby foods, bottles and juices that are within the scope of the WHO code. Also, the breastfeeding rate is low in Australia because the manufacturers provide artificial milk to various hospitals, child care centers and health experts in form of gifts. This discourages the natural breastfeeding of the babies.
Secondly, all hospitals in Iran are baby friendly as compared to only 4.5 percent of the hospitals in Australia. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has mandated many important initiatives that enhance successive breastfeeding in Iran. Iran started providing workplace education that promoted breastfeeding in 1980s which has led to the rise of breastfeeding. This kind of education is not offered in Australia because many professional organs do not realize the importance of breastfeeding. In Iran, artificial feeding facilities are not offered while the Australian hospitals support the provision of artificial milk to the babies. Rooming in is practiced in Iran whereby the mothers are able to stay with their babies for twenty four hour a day unlike to most Australian mothers who spends less time with the babies. The breastfeeding rate in Iran is increased by the free antenatal education classes where many pregnant women participate.
On the contrary, a very small percentage of the classes were offered free of charge. Free breastfeeding information materials are offered to mothers in Iran which provides the importance of breastfeeding and also provide the information on the adverse impacts of artificial feeding. On the other hand, this practice is not available in Australia. The mothers discharged from hospitals in Iran are given regular visits by the support groups who encourage them to breastfeed the babies until the period of 12 months is over. Very few hospitals in Australia are able to offer this support visiting program to discharged mothers. This makes some mothers to seek services from private clinics which are very costly and scarce. Also, Iranian women are entitled to a 4 months maternity leave and it can be extended allowing them much time to breastfeed their babies while in Australia view work places offer paid maternity leaves to the women and the maximum time for the leave is eight weeks.
Culturally, breastfeeding is considered a norm in Iran and it is promoted by the Muslim religion through the Quran which says that the newborn baby has a right to be breastfed for two years. This is not the case in Australia. Finally, the breastfeeding rate is comparatively high in Iran since most women do not have a smoking culture while many mothers in Australia are smokers of cigarettes which lower their breastfeeding rate.
To improve breastfeeding initiation and duration in Iran, the existing programs such as the provision of breastfeeding education and visiting of the discharged mothers by the hospital support groups should be improved and supported by the government. On the other hand, the Australian hospitals should provide the support services such as regular visiting to the mothers free of charge, provide free antenatal classes to women and the Australian workplaces should allow their women workers long enough paid leaves.
The differences in the breastfeeding initiation and duration between Iran and Australia are likened to the substantial racial breastfeeding differences in USA. Therefore the implications of this study will increase breastfeeding initiation and duration among women in some races in the US where the breastfeeding rate is relatively low.