Troubled talk and talk about troubles: moral cultures of infant feeding in professional, policy and parenting discourses

Lomax, Helen (2013). Troubled talk and talk about troubles: moral cultures of infant feeding in professional, policy and parenting discourses. In: Ribbens McCarthy, Jane; Hooper, Carol-Ann and Gillies, Val eds. Family Troubles? Exploring Changes and Challenges in the Family Lives of Children and Young People. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 97–106.

Abstract

This chapter examines the ways in which policy agendas and contemporary notions of the ‘good mother’ frame infant feeding practices, rendering them a site of moral and interactional trouble for mothers. Drawing on analysis of mothers’ talk with midwives during the first days of motherhood, the chapter explores the ways in which breastfeeding confers a positive maternal identity whilst choosing not to do so is associated with a deficit identity against which mothers’ struggle to present themselves as good parents. The chapter suggests that these encounters are important places to explore the ways in which ‘ordinary’ family practices are troubled by policy agendas which may conflict with women’s embodied experiences, culturally held ideas about feeding babies and contemporary notions about what constitutes a good mother and a healthy baby. A focus on these signal moments makes visible the ways in which policy agendas may negate the rich texture of maternal labour and its complex and troubling relationship with policy.

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