The Politics of Breastfeeding: Assessing Risk, Dividing Labor

Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Impact Factor: 0.46). 01/2000; 25(2). DOI: 10.1086/495446
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    • "Blum's earlier (1999) study of infant feeding in the United States found that poverty conditions complicated breastfeeding because it caused physical difficulties for undernourished mothers and had hidden economic costs. Blum and Vanderwater (1993) and Law (2000) have suggested that the option of prolonged breastfeeding tends to be limited to middle class women whose partners are breadwinners. Maher argues that regardless of where one lives in the world, " political and economic insecurity, ill health and overwork of mothers, gender inequality and the dangerous unhygienic environment that goes with sheer poverty " adversely affect the success of breastfeeding (Maher 1992b: 153). "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the framing of public policy related to infant food insecurity in Canada by examining multiple levels and jurisdictions where infant feeding and food security policy merge. It identifies that both policy areas position breastfeeding as the solution to infant food insecurity, primarily isolating policy within health domains. Overall, this paper provides a critique of policy in relation to what we know about the challenges of maintaining breastfeeding as the sole nutrition strategies for infants and the barriers of access to alternative food for infants within the context of low-income circumstances in high-income countries such as Canada. It argues that infant food insecurity is a matter that requires better conceptualization and broader policy responses beyond health policy aimed at shaping infant feeding practice. An informed merging of infant feeding and food security policy could provide the framework for policy development to address the structural relations that make breastfeeding unsustainable, particularly for low-income women, as well food insecurity outcomes that stem from not breastfeeding in low-income circumstances.
    Food Culture and Society An International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research 03/2015; 18(1). DOI:10.2752/175174415X14101814953927
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    • "Prior literature on breastfeeding shows that (1) women find it difficult to breastfeed while engaging in paid work (Kimbro 2006; Law 2000; Reynolds 2005; Roe et al. 1999); (2) women feel pressure to breastfeed (Schmied and Lupton 2001; Taylor and Wallace 2010; Wolf 2007); and (3) many women who face work-family conflicts opt out of work when they have the financial ability to do so (Stone 2007). Based on this literature, we hypothesize that mothers who breastfeed will have lower earnings in the short-term and potentially in the long-term, because they will be more likely to reduce their work hours or quit work entirely to accommodate the demands of breastfeeding. "
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    ABSTRACT: Based on studies showing health advantages for breastfeeding mothers and their infants, pediatricians and other breastfeeding advocates encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of their infants’ lives, arguing that breast milk is best for infants, families, and society, and it is cost free. Few empirical studies, however, document how the decision to breastfeed instead of formula-feed is associated with women’s post-birth earnings. This is an important omission, given that the majority of women today work for pay, and many work in job environments incompatible with breastfeeding. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, our results show that mothers who breastfeed for six months or longer suffer more severe and more prolonged earnings losses than do mothers who breastfeed for shorter durations or not at all. The larger post-birth drop in earnings for long-duration breastfeeders is due to a larger reduction in labor supply. We discuss the implications of these findings for gender equality at home and at work.
    American Sociological Review 01/2012; 77(2):244-267. · 4.42 Impact Factor
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    • "I suggest that these discourses work to maintain parenting as an activity that remains gendered in very particular, and largely unquestioned, ways. This argument draws on a small but growing literature that examines how contemporary breastfeeding discourses work to construct mothering in particular ways (Avishai, 2007; Knaak, 2005; Kukla, 2006; Law, 2000; Murphy, 1999, 2000; Wall, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Contemporary breastfeeding discourses in Aotearoa/New Zealand – encapsulated in the 'breast is best' slogan – have emerged from a convergence of feminist and medical discourses. However, these discourses have developed in ways that limit the ways in which women care for their infants if they wish to be understood as 'good mothers'. In this article, I demonstrate how these ideologies appear to inform material intended for new parents and health workers in Aotearoa/New Zealand, while simultaneously working to exclude fathers from both decision-making and involvement in much of the care of new-born infants. Current policy also constrains the ways in which health workers may provide new parents with information about formula feeding. I suggest that, in this context, neither the feminist nor medical goals that originally informed contemporary breastfeeding discourses are being effectively realised.
    New Zealand Sociology 01/2008; 23.
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