Parenting culture and feeding babies: abstracts

Lina Eriksson and Tizina Torresi: A view from liberal political theory on taking autonomy seriously

We argue that the use of state power to support the promotion of breastfeeding is not justified because it violates key principles in liberal political theory, and principles that are also reflected also in the ethical frameworks developed within public health and health promotion ethics. The State should provide accurate factual information and legislate and agitate for more family-friendly workplaces, including for women who want to breastfeed. Formula-feeding is not like smoking, speeding or sharing needles. Perhaps, breastfeeding is better for a child’s health, but it is certainly not always better, all things considered, particularly when one of the considerations is the health, welfare and autonomy of the woman who is being asked to do the breastfeeding.

Charlotte Faircloth: Couples’ Transitions to Parenthood and the ‘equality problem’

This research explores how the ‘breast is best’ message intersects (or otherwise) with narratives around the importance of equal parenting and involved fathering, drawing on accounts from couples who adhere to varying iterations of equality.

Sunna Símonardóttir: Becoming a mother in ‘the world’s most feminist country’

Breastfeeding rates in Iceland and the other Nordic countries are among the highest in the world and the cultural and societal expectations for women to successfully breastfeed are therefore very high, as breastfeeding represents a strong moral and social norm. Iceland is considered a model for gender equality and feminism and this article thus examines the experiences of women who have struggled with breastfeeding, in a context which strongly promotes both breastfeeding and gender equality.

Vera Wilde: Preventing harm to neonates and their mothers

Current policy thinking about early infant feeding assumes exclusive breastfeeding benefits infant health without incurring meaningful risks. Current protocols and their implementation, such as the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding codified by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, emphasize exclusivity in breastfeeding, but that paradigm is based on flawed science and logic. Widely recognized potential confounds for exclusive breastfeeding’s purported infant health benefits include breastfeeding insufficiencies as well as maternal health and socio-economic status. This contribution considers the problems of the rise of the focus on exclusivity and what the alternative should be.

Erin Williams: Infant feeding and food insecurity: securing the right to food for all

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, more families across the UK are experiencing food poverty, but current social security, health care and infant feeding policies fall far short of ensuring all members of the family, particularly infants, are adequately fed. Our research on food and baby bank use has indicated that equitable access to food is a significant issue for families with infants, particularly when it comes to accessing formula. Here we argue that immediate action is required to ensure families’ Right to Food, and suggest what we can do moving forward to ensure equitable access to food for all babies.

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