‘Please don’t put the whole dang thing out there!’: A discursive analysis of internet discussions around infant feeding

Callaghan, Jane E. M. and Lazard, Lisa (2012). ‘Please don’t put the whole dang thing out there!’: A discursive analysis of internet discussions around infant feeding. Psychology & Health, 27(8) pp. 938–955.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2011.634294

Abstract

The promotion of breastfeeding is an important focus of intervention for professionals working to improve infant health outcomes. Literature in this area focuses largely on ‘choices’ and ‘barriers to breastfeeding’. It is our argument, however, that women’s cultural context plays a key role in infant feeding ‘choices’. In this article, we explore contested representations of infant feeding and infant feeding choices in public debates conducted on a large British parenting website. To sample dominant representations of infant feeding circulating in UK culture, two threads were chosen from the debating board of a busy online parenting community (105 and 99 individual posts, respectively). Participants on the threads were largely women. A feminist informed Foucauldian discourse analysis was used to deconstruct the intersecting constructions of gender, childhood and motherhood implicit in public discussions about infant feeding choices. We identify dominant constructions of women who breastfeed or bottle feed, social representations of both forms of infant feeding, and explore the relationship between constructions of infant feeding choices and constructions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ motherhood. This analysis functions to trouble the individualist assumptions underpinning the notion of infant feeding ‘choices’, considering the cultural context within which British mothers ‘choose’ how to feed their babies.

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