Whereas in western countries breastfeeding is an uncontroversial, purely personal issue, in most parts of the world mother and baby form part of a network of interpersonal relations with its own rules and expectations. In this study, the author examines the cultural and social context of breastfeeding among the Gogo women of the Cigongwe's village in Tanzania, as part of the Paediatric Programme of Doctors with Africa, based in Padua. The focus is on mothers' behaviour and post partum taboos as key elements in Gogo understanding of the vicissitudes of the breast feeding process. This nutritional period is subject to many different events both physical and social that may upset the natural and intense link between mother and child. Any violation of cultural norms, particularly those dealing with sexual behaviour, marriage and reproduction, can, in the eyes of the Gogo, put at risk the correct development of an infant with serious consequences both for the baby's health as well as for the woman's image as mother and wife.
Mara Mabilia teaches at the Intercultural Studies Master's Programme as well as Cultural Anthropology with a sub-field in Cooperation and Development at the Faculty of Education, both at University of Padua. She also lectures in other Postgraduate programmes (University of Brescia and University of Rome). She prepares doctors who serve as volunteers in Africa at C.U.A.M.M. Doctors with Africa - International College for Health Cooperation in Developing Countries, Padua.