Early Initiation of Breastfeeding Among Maya Mothers in the Western Highlands of Guatemala: Practices and Beliefs.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Guatemala exhibits the sixth highest rate of child stunting worldwide, and stunting disproportionately affects Guatemala indigenous communities. In a country struggling to combat this result of malnutrition, early child nutrition is especially critical. Specifically, early initiation of breastfeeding is important for the development of newborn infants. Understanding beliefs and practices related to early initiation of breastfeeding in Maya Guatemala may provide an avenue to guide nutrition interventions in indigenous communities. Research aim: This study aimed to determine major beliefs and practices associated with early initiation of breastfeeding among Maya mothers in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.


As part of a larger study to assess child nutrition in the Lake Atitlán region, we created a series of semistructured interview questions to document breastfeeding practices and beliefs among mothers. We conducted and audio-recorded in-person interviews that were translated from Kaqchikel, the local language, to Spanish by a community assistant.


We conducted 178 interviews with mothers; 76% practiced early initiation. Early initiation was associated with the village and complementary feeding practices. Mothers held a variety of beliefs about the value of colostrum, and these beliefs were associated with the village. Mothers who held negative beliefs toward colostrum were more likely to delay breastfeeding initiation.


Although most Maya mothers practice early initiation, the intervillage disparity in breastfeeding practices demonstrates a need to geographically focus breastfeeding interventions. Our novel insights into the breastfeeding beliefs among Maya mothers will serve as a guide to structure culturally competent breastfeeding education interventions in indigenous communities.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Atyeo, NN; Frank, TD; Vail, EF; Sperduto, WAL; Boyd, DL

Published Date

  • November 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 33 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 781 - 789

PubMed ID

  • 28107098

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-5732

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0890-3344

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0890334416682729


  • eng