“The way to break the taboo is to do the taboo thing” breastfeeding in public and citizen-activism in the UK


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Abstract

Like other forms of infant feeding, breastfeeding is a fundamental act of care. Yet despite being the recommended way of feeding babies, breastfeeding is not always easy to do. In addition to lack of support, bio-physical problems and the need to return to work; discomfort with breastfeeding in public is a factor shaping infant feeding choice (and the decision to stop breastfeeding specifically). With increased awareness of breast milk’s health benefits in recent years, there has been a rise in efforts to make breastfeeding in public more commonplace and socially acceptable (including through lactation advocacy or “lactivism”). This paper considers breastfeeding in public and lactation advocacy in the UK through interviews with lactation activists, non-activist breastfeeding mothers, and participant-observation at two breastfeeding picnics held in 2009. Building on existing scholarship in Geography, I suggest that lactivism can be understood as an effort to expand the boundaries of where care-work is allowed to take place: thus constituting a form of “care-work activism”.

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