Department or Program



Breastfeeding is the most complete form of infant nutrition and has numerous health benefits for both the mother and infant. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People Goals aims for approximately half of mothers to breastfeed exclusively through three months and a quarter of mothers to breastfeed exclusively through six months. Women in Somalia and in refugee camps abroad routinely breastfeed their babies, but upon immigration to the U.S., these mothers often face novel barriers that make it harder to exclusively breastfeed for the recommended amount of time. In Lewiston, Maine, health care providers find that Somali mothers frequently supplement or replace breast milk with formula. In conversation groups with Somali women, this trend was confirmed and women expressed the belief that their breast milk was insufficient for their infants’ nutritional needs. This thesis aims to understand breastfeeding knowledge and beliefs of local perinatal Somali women and how those beliefs translate to practice. Home visit interviews were conducted to collect data on breastfeeding practices and beliefs. This information was used along with public health recommendations concerning breastfeeding, to develop a culturally relevant educational workshop. By building upon Somali women’s current knowledge of breastfeeding, the workshop aimed to encourage pragmatic and sustainable exclusive breastfeeding practices, which will in turn improve mother and infant health. Culturally sensitive programs such as this have the potential to effect real progress toward the lactation objectives set forth in the Healthy People Goals and to cultivate healthier practices in the community.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.