Many Gifts: A Narrative Inquiry Study into Urban Aboriginal Women’s Experiences of Breastfeeding

  • Author / Creator
    Goudman, Angela M
  • Aboriginal populations constitute one of the largest ethnic populations in Canada. After initial contact with Europeans, these populations were frequently subjected to colonial treatment, including the creation of residential schools. The purpose of colonial treatment was to assimilate Aboriginal people into Western culture and prevent the transmission of their languages and cultural traditions. However, this has resulted in significant disenfranchisement in subsequent generations. In recent years, Aboriginal peoples have encouraged cultural reclamation and emphasized the need for the transmission of cultural knowledge and beliefs. Currently, little is known about Aboriginal traditions and practices surrounding breastfeeding by Aboriginal women. It is known that breastfeeding rates are lower in Aboriginal mothers, and that Aboriginal people are predisposed to the development of obesity and diabetes, two conditions that may be prevented or mitigated through breastfeeding. Consequently, the purpose of this research was to learn about cultural traditions and practices associated with the decision to breastfeed, with the intent of developing a framework for providing culturally appropriate pre- and postnatal support for breastfeeding by Aboriginal women. A narrative inquiry methodology was used, and two Aboriginal women co-participated with the researcher in developing narratives about themselves while breastfeeding and how breastfeeding was situated in the context of their life stories. The three-dimensional narrative inquiry space was used, with its aspects of time, environment, and interaction. A fourth dimension of bodily experience was added due to the fact that breastfeeding is a physical act. The participants told stories of how breastfeeding became a gift for them to give their children. It assisted them in connecting with spiritual traditions and with the natural world. One participant spoke of how she was adopted as a child and raised outside her traditional culture, only connecting with her birth family and her cultural traditions as an adult. Breastfeeding and childbearing were influenced by her desire to learn more about her culture and pass her cultural traditions on to her children. The other participant spoke of how breastfeeding became a choice that she could make, and how she asserted her independence by making her own choices about breastfeeding and childrearing. Both spoke of the importance of including Aboriginal cultural traditions in order to encourage and empower women, and the necessity of recognizing the impact of colonial treatment on Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal peoples today in regards to breastfeeding and health decisions. Underlying threads of identity, recognition of and respect for Aboriginal ways of knowing, and breastfeeding as a natural experience emerged. This research may provide the foundation for the development of a new framework for Aboriginal women’s health and culturally appropriate health education.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Nursing
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Richter, M. Solina (Nursing)
    • Fletcher, Fay (Extension)
    • Caine, Vera (Nursing)