Understanding Religion and Social Expectations in Contemporary Muslim Society When Promoting Breastfeeding

  •  Emma Mohamad    
  •  Abdul Latiff Ahmad    
  •  Samsudin A. Rahim    
  •  Latiffah Pawanteh    


The paper aims to examine religious and cultural issues with regards to breastfeeding and explore how this awareness can improve breastfeeding promotion in a contemporary Muslim society. Focusing specifically on Malay women, the study looks at how breastfeeding is being negotiated into women’s understanding of modesty in Islam and how this may affect the practice of breastfeeding in public. Using qualitative approach, nine focus groups were conducted among Malay mothers in different parts of Malaysia to explore their experiences breastfeeding in different locations. The respondents were also asked to comment on a breastfeeding picture taken from a local magazine to explore their level of acceptance and responses to image of breastfeeding in the media. It was observed that Malay women were very concerned about Islamic rules with regards to female modesty but often negotiated the sexualized breasts into their overall understanding. The combination of these concerns has discouraged many Malay women to breastfeed in public. The study also found that while many respondents are not comfortable with the idea of having images of Muslim breastfeeding women in the media, their concerns are all related to religious matters. The study suggests that images of Muslim women breastfeeding can and should be used in any promotional items in order to make it a culturally accepted behavior but must also adhere to Islamic rulings.

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