From Liminality to Vitality: Infant Feeding Beliefs Among Refugee Mothers From Vietnam and Myanmar Academic Article uri icon


  • Infant feeding in traditional (non-White societies) is imbued within beliefs surrounding the human body and food. This article, framed within the liminality theory, demonstrates perspectives of 38 Vietnamese and Myanmarese refugee mothers. Situated within the postmodern methodological framework, innovative methods of in-depth interviewing and drawing were used to gather participant’s subjectivities. As birthing renders the new mother and infant weak, the findings mirror a “liminality to vitality” nurturing continuum, acknowledging the (a) essentialism of bodily breast milk, (b) rituals that strengthen mothers for lactation, (c) lactation-inducing food, and (d) culturally symbolic non-milk food that promote an independence for nourishment other than from the maternal body. Health care professionals are called to value the importance of bodily vitality in birthing and clinical maternal–child health/nutrition spheres so that culturally specific services and consultations are rendered. Our findings also offer a platform to developing models of care for families from Vietnamese and four ethnic Myanmarese communities.

publication date

  • 2019

has subject area