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Background: Breast milk provides both nutrition and immune protection for the developing child. Current reports of exclusive breastfeeding rates in the Dominican Republic (DR) are low (4.7%). The batey communities of the DR, in which Haitian migrant workers live in impoverished conditions, are of particular interest in terms of breastfeeding in the resource-limited setting. The aim of this study was to examine the factors underlying the decision-making processes related to breastfeeding for the women living in the bateyes of the DR.
Methods: This was a qualitative study. We conducted 65 in-person interviews in 16 bateyes in the region surrounding La Romana, Dominican Republic, of women (Ñ18 years of age) who had given birth in the last 2 years. Interviews were conducted from July-August 2017. We used the grounded theory approach to identify themes.
Results: In our sample (N=65), any breastfeeding was prevalent (86.1%; n=56), but the six-month exclusive breastfeeding rate was low (9.2%; n=6), and formula supplementation was high (69.2%; n=45). Many mothers perceived breast milk as the ideal form of nourishment for infants (58.5%;
n=38), however some mothers expressed a desire to also feed formula in order to supplement the breast milk (26.2%; n=17).
Conclusions: Although many of the women of the bateyes breastfeed their infants and know of the benefits of breastfeeding, misconceptions as to the quality and quantity of breast milk do still exist. Education and outreach efforts regarding the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding could enhance adequate and affordable nutrition options for the infants of the bateyes.
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