Liminality and breastfeeding: women negotiating space and two bodies Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • It is almost universally accepted that breastfeeding infants is nutritionally superior to bottle-feeding. However, despite this medical advice, in many countries breastfeeding rates remain low and in the UK, rates are relatively static. The literature on breastfeeding has discussed international rates and the broad socio-economic factors influencing these rates. Through an observational study of a group of breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women in the United Kingdom, this research utilises contemporary theoretical perspectives on the body, space and rites of passage, and investigates the reasons why some breastfeeding mothers may be in a liminal period, and the breastfeeding event itself, at times, a liminal and marginalised act. The paper argues that, for the group studied, breastfeeding is sometimes discouraged by its medicalisation, and that breastmilk and breastfeeding are often considered by mothers to be embarrassing. Many of the women studied regarded certain public and private places to be unacceptable places to breastfeed and claimed to modify their behaviour accordingly. The paper demonstrates the value of conducting locally based qualitative research into breastfeeding experiences, and of using theoretical perspectives from post-medical geography to interpret women's experiences.

publication date

  • June 2002