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Breastfeeding and Sexuality

Breastfeeding and Sexuality: Behaviour, Beliefs and Taboos among the Gogo Mothers in Tanzania

Mara Mabilia
Translated by Mary S. Ash
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Breastfeeding and Sexuality
    Book Description:

    Whereas in western countries breastfeeding is an uncontroversial, purely personal issue, in most parts of the world mother and baby form part of a network of interpersonal relations with its own rules and expectations. In this study, the author examines the cultural and social context of breastfeeding among the Gogo women of the Cigongwe's village in Tanzania, as part of the Paediatric Programme of Doctors with Africa, based in Padua. The focus is on mothers' behaviour andpost partumtaboos as key elements in Gogo understanding of the vicissitudes of the breast feeding process. This nutritional period is subject to many different events both physical and social that may upset thenaturaland intense link between mother and child. Any violation of cultural norms, particularly those dealing with sexual behaviour, marriage and reproduction, can, in the eyes of the Gogo, put at risk the correct development of an infant with serious consequences both for the baby's health as well as for the woman's image as mother and wife.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-607-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    This book is the result of anthropological research that began in April 1989 and continued through to August 1992. It was part of the paediatric project which CUAMM, Doctors with Africa, was implementing in the government hospital of Dodoma and in the whole of the District.² This health intervention was centred on the problem of malnutrition and was led by Italian paediatricians, assisted by local health personnel, both in the hospital and in the territory.

    In the area of Dodoma, the nutritional status of children under five years of age did not differ from the average national statistics. Around 50–...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Cigongwe
    (pp. 6-25)

    In the last three months I had driven through the district of Dodoma and visited more than eighty villages, looking for the one that would bemine. Now that I had chosen it, I was travelling, and not without some emotion, towards that area which was to become very familiar to me.²

    I had already left the city of Dodoma behind me and the tarmac road leading to the west was wide and bordered on both sides by low houses with corrugated iron roofs. The space in front of me, just a few metres from the roadside, was bustling with...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Gogo Women
    (pp. 26-40)

    The road to understanding how Gogo women behave during breast feeding, that is, how they experience the nutritional process which occupies them for more than two years, inevitably passes through their daily lives. Here, their occupations, relations and ways of feeling all interact together on breast feeding, conditioning how it is done in a composite network of synergies. From this point of view, breast feeding is not a mere nutritional ʹissueʹ, but a complex exercise in which the mother–child couple is fully integrated into social dynamics and is the bearer of cultural teachings.

    It was therefore fundamental for me,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Breast Feeding
    (pp. 41-65)

    One day, when I was visiting a homestead, chatting with men and women about the harvest of peanuts being picked from the plants, a small boy of about three years arrived and settling himself on his motherʹs lap, took her breast in his hands and began to suck. The woman smiled at me and, in no way surprised or annoyed, serenely continued her work. After a few moments, the child got up and ran off to join his companions. What I had just seen was in no way unusual; I knew about the long breast-feeding period, on average between 24...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The ʹGood Motherʹ, the ʹBad Motherʹ: Diarrhoea as a Sign of Social Disorder
    (pp. 66-99)

    While paying more and more attention to the mothersʹ behaviour in various moments of the day, and listening with ever-increasing interest to any subject which seemed to be connected to their children, a case of diarrhoea in a three-to four-month-old baby gave a decided shift to my research. This fortuitous event would, in fact, lead me beyond the answer given to me on breast feeding as the ʹnaturalʹ (obvious?, usual?) response to the newborn babyʹs nutritional needs.

    After an intense day spent with a number of families, I was making my way to the clinic, alone and on foot. My...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Maternal Milk: Indicator of ʹGood Motherʹ
    (pp. 100-118)

    The route which has been delineated so far confirms the complexity of breast feeding, its being, therefore, a physiological process steeped in cultural, social and psychological instances which see a womanʹs actions responding to introjected expectations, formal and informal, day after day, through community life. As a mother, she who is asked to breast feed and rear the children, to be she who, for many months, gives her breast milk, a nutrient which is the artificer of her very own survival, to her own child, her person is invested with a series of responsibilities, made object of a series of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 119-134)
  12. Index
    (pp. 135-140)