The Religious and Cultural Bases for Breastfeeding Practices Among the Hindus

Nirupama Laroia, Deeksha Sharma
Breastfeeding Medicine. 2006, 1(2): 94-98.


In Hindu communities, breastfeeding is nearly universal and continues for most children beyond infancy. This review examines the religious and cultural basis for the contemporary breastfeeding practices amongst the Hindu.
Practices at the time of birth and feeding rituals like prelacteal feeds, importance and timing of complementary feeds, and protections for the breastfeeding mother are examined from the published medical literature and available religious texts. Hindu Vedic literature and ancient ayurvedic texts underscore the importance of breastfeeding in the Hindu society. Although almost every Hindu child gets some breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended duration and early initiation of breastfeeding are not that common. As birth of a baby is a celebration for family and society, breastfeeding is strongly influenced by cultural and religious ceremonies. In today’s context, although women may receive guidance from health care professionals, relatives—especially grandmothers—have an important influence on breastfeeding practices.