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Giving guilt the flick”: Infant-feeding discourses and their implications for mothers’ subjectivity

Donaghue, N., Williams, K. and Kurz, T. (2011) Giving guilt the flick”: Infant-feeding discourses and their implications for mothers’ subjectivity. In: International Society of Critical Health Psychology 7th Biennial Conference; Advancing Critical Perspectives for Health and Health Care, 18-20 April 2011, University of Adelaide, South Australia


Established research on infant-feeding produced in the fields of medicine, midwifery, public health and social policy is strongly in favour of breastfeeding. Expert guidance and government policies often cite health benefits and advocate exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Recently, feminist and sociological researchers have challenged underlying medical assumptions and attended to the social and discursive construction of breastfeeding practice. The currently pervasive cultural discourse of breastfeeding as the ‘morally correct’ choice has been found to affect actual decisions and practices, as well as subjective judgements and feelings, particularly those of guilt, inadequacy and isolation. Within a Foucauldian framework of knowledge and power, we analyse constructions of infant-feeding and ‘guilt’ within two data sets, a) current Australian childcare educational books, booklets and pamphlets dealing with infant feeding, and b) a series of focus groups with mothers with young children. In our analysis we examine the major discursive constructions of infant-feeding that were evident within the informational material available to mothers, and then the ways in which these were taken up, managed, and potentially problematized within women’s own accounts in focus groups. In particular, we focus on the ways in which the issue of ‘guilt’ is talked about within both data corpus and discuss our findings in relation to potential implications for mothers’ subjectivities.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: International Society of Critical Health Psychology
Copyright: The Authors
Conference Website:
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