Beyond Health, beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities

Beyond Health, beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities

Beyond Health, beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities

Beyond Health, beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities

Synopsis

Current public health promotion of breastfeeding relies heavily on health messaging and individual behavior change. Women are told that "breast is best" but too little serious attention is given to addressing the many social, economic, and political factors that combine to limit women's real choice to breastfeed beyond a few days or weeks. The result: women's, infants', and public health interests are undermined. Beyond Health, Beyond Choice examines how feminist perspectives can inform public health support for breastfeeding.

Written by authors from diverse disciplines, perspectives, and countries, this collection of essays is arranged thematically and considers breastfeeding in relation to public health and health care; work and family; embodiment (specifically breastfeeding in public); economic and ethnic factors; guilt; violence; and commercialization. By examining women's experiences and bringing feminist insights to bear on a public issue, the editors attempt to reframe the discussion to better inform public health approaches and political action. Doing so can help us recognize the value of breastfeeding for the public's health and the important productive and reproductive contributions women make to the world.

Excerpt

Recently there has been an explosion of feminist attention to breastfeeding, in addition to increased activity in public health and medical research. Our collected volume, Beyond Health, Beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities, contributes to this diverse field of research, policy, and practice by drawing on women’s voices, feminist theory, public health, and novel interdisciplinary conceptualizations. Our aim is to expand the understanding of women’s experiences of breastfeeding and to provide insight for public health policy and planning.

Our title indicates the main elements of our approach. Current public health promotion of breastfeeding per force relies heavily on health messaging and individual behavior change, often failing to take into account the myriad constraints on women’s choices and practices. The result is a perceived pressure on women to breastfeed without necessary social and cultural support. The reality of women’s lives is diverse and constrained by structural factors outside of their personal control. Our volume focuses attention on the multiple contexts that affect women’s behaviors, beliefs, and practices, exploring ways to refocus public debate about infant feeding decisions in the United States and elsewhere.

Beyond Health, Beyond Choice is a unique contribution to the burgeoning field of breastfeeding studies. Contributing authors hail from various disciplines and countries, and include social scientists, humanities scholars, health workers, and public health activists and policy makers. We focus attention not only on describing the problem but also on strategies and approaches that inform policy, programming, and practices in health care and public health . . .

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