Culture and Eating in the Perinatal Period and Early Childhood

  • J. Martin Maldonado-DuranEmail author
  • Teresa Lartigue Becerra
  • Kenia Gomez


This chapter describes the issues around maternal eating during pregnancy and infant and preschool feeding. The varied practices of “eating during pregnancy” are described in terms of how they are dictated by cultural and socioeconomic factors. Feeding is strongly influenced by culture, superimposed on ethological predispositions of mother and infant. The meaning of food and the manner in which young children are fed are constructed by cultural influences. Breastfeeding, apparently a purely biological phenomenon, is determined by cultural values. It is more frequently practiced in poor countries in which it may be the only way to maintain the infant’s weight. The timing if weaning also has an impact on the weight of the baby and the introduction of new foods. The size and weight of the baby is also determined by cultural representations; in some countries, mothers may prefer “small babies.” Feeding the infant is par excellence an interpersonal process that may be transformed into pure introduction of food in the mouth even in young children. This may be the case in childcare centers where many “rules of feeding” may be imposed by well-meaning caregivers. The nutritional status of young children is still threatened by poverty in many countries, leading to a high prevalence of malnutrition and growth stunting, which have long-term consequences for the child.


Breastfeeding Weaning Spoon-feeding Self-feeding infant Pre-chewing food Kiss feeding Rules at mealtime Food selectivity Food neophobia Feeding situation Infant malnutrition Growth stunting 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Martin Maldonado-Duran
    • 1
    Email author
  • Teresa Lartigue Becerra
    • 2
  • Kenia Gomez
    • 3
  1. 1.Menninger Department of PsychiatryBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Mexican Psychoanalytic InstituteMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.Massachussetts Memorial HospitalBostonUSA

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