Is breast best?: breastfeeding, motherhood and identity

Earle, Sarah (2003). Is breast best?: breastfeeding, motherhood and identity. In: Earle, Sarah and Letherby, Gayle eds. Gender, identity and reproduction: social perspectives. London: Palgrave, pp. 135–150.




Is Breast Best?: breastfeeding, motherhood and identity is concerned with how breastfeeding is both a personal and a political issue. Earle begins with a cross-cultural analysis of the prevalence of breastfeeding, considering differences between and within countries and cultures and highlighting the presumed physical and psychological advantages for mothers and their babies. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to data derived from a qualitative study concerned with the body in pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. Earle argues that there are competing discourses which serve to structure women's experiences and perceptions of breastfeeding. Furthermore, she argues that gendered expectations and conflict in relation to women's sexual and maternal identities can cause tension, as can the competing pressure to breastfeed versus the importance of including the father in childcare. In conclusion, Earle leaves us with a question, namely: is the breastfeeding women empowering herself by doing what comes naturally or is the mother who uses formula milk making positive choices about her life and the care of her children?

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