Feminism, Breasts and Breast-feeding - download pdf or read online
By Pam Carter
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Extra resources for Feminism, Breasts and Breast-feeding
Medical Officers of Health at that time maintained that women were prevented from breast-feeding by their work outside the home and that this was, in their view, a major cause of infant mortality (Hewitt, 1958; Lewis, 1980). The evidence for this link between women's work, early weaning and high levels of infant deaths was certainly not conclusive, but failure to breast-feed came to symbolize one aspect of poor mothering, expressed here in 1906 by Newman, who became the first Minister of Health in 1919: 'Expressed bluntly, it is the ignorance and carelessness of mothers which causes a large proportion of the infant mortality' (Newman, 1906, in Dyhouse, 1981: 96).
Hence infant feeding is a contradictory discursive field, where analyses of power and resistance are complex. These ways of thinking can help us to find a way through the feminist dilemma stated at the beginning of the preceding section, in which liberation is seen as best pursued either through emphasizing sexual difference or through denying it. In relation to infant feeding the dilemma leads to seeing breast-feeding as a repressed 'truth' of women, a part of our real selves, or as a burden to be avoided through embracing bottle feeding.
She relates the widespread adoption of infant formula to changing modes of production when women's roles in both production and reproduction were devalued and their role as consumer enhanced. In relation to infant feeding women were persuaded to become consumers of infant formula because 'The alternative to formula is breast milk, a home-made subsistence product which like other such goods, is devalued because it does not permit the extraction of a profit' (Campbell, 1984: 559). Campbell suggests that 'liberal' pro breast-feeders believe that regulation of baby milk manufacture is necessary to support the long term survival of the system.
Feminism, Breasts and Breast-feeding by Pam Carter