Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Nighttime Breastfeeding

Nighttime Breastfeeding: An American Cultural Dilemma

Cecília Tomori
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Nighttime Breastfeeding
    Book Description:

    Nighttime for many new parents in the United States is fraught with the intense challenges of learning to breastfeed and helping their babies sleep so they can get rest themselves. Through careful ethnographic study of the dilemmas raised by nighttime breastfeeding, and their examination in the context of anthropological, historical, and feminist studies, this volume unravels the cultural tensions that underlie these difficulties. As parents negotiate these dilemmas, they not only confront conflicting medical guidelines about breastfeeding and solitary infant sleep, but also larger questions about cultural and moral expectations for children and parents, and their relationship with one another.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-436-6
    Subjects: Public Health, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    When I visited Kate¹ and Joshua at their home for our first meeting a week and a half after their daughter’s birth, we had a lot to catch up on. I had met Kate, a schoolteacher, and Joshua, an ecologist, a married couple in their late twenties, at a local childbirth education center several months earlier. Together with a group of other middle-class pregnant women expecting their first child, their partners, and an instructor, we spent two and a half hours together each week during the long Midwestern winter for the seven sessions of the course and the additional sessions...

  6. Chapter 1 Embodied Cultural Dilemmas: An Anthropological Approach to the Study of Nighttime Breastfeeding and Sleep
    (pp. 25-54)

    One of the main objectives of this book is to show how anthropological ways of thinking can help illuminate points of conflict or tension that are often treated in a simplistic and polarized fashion in popular media. Specifically, while it is tempting to attribute the tensions over nighttime care of babies to conflicts over the ostensible superiority of breastfeeding or formula feeding, or solitary sleep versus co-sleeping, a more thorough engagement reveals that these bodily activities are entangled in a series of sociocultural domains that may not be readily apparent to a casual observer or even to new families attempting...

  7. Chapter 2 Struggles over Authoritative Knowledge and “Choice” in Breastfeeding and Infant Sleep in the United States
    (pp. 55-88)

    Contemporary perspectives and practices of infant feeding and sleep are inextricably entangled with biomedicine. This chapter seeks to unravel this involvement of biomedicine in infant feeding and sleep in the United States using the concept of authoritative knowledge, defined as a system of knowledge that is valued to the exclusion of other ways of knowing. Brigitte Jordan (1997, [1978] 1993) developed and later elaborated the concept of authoritative knowledge through her comparative ethnographic work on childbirth in the Yucatan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. According to Jordan (1997:57), authoritative knowledge is embedded in a system of power relations...

  8. Chapter 3 Making Breastfeeding Parents in Childbirth Education Courses
    (pp. 89-119)

    Childbirth education courses have become a mainstay of preparations for middle-class couples expecting their first baby. The courses not only provide foundational knowledge about childbirth and infant care in a society where expectant couples often have minimal prior exposure to birth and the care of young children, but they also constitute an essential American rite of passage through which women and men become mothers and fathers, respectively (Davis-Floyd 2004; Reed 2005). This rite of passage, however, comes with a price tag. High quality childbirth education that includes breastfeeding and other aspects of infant care courses is a consumer good that...

  9. Chapter 4 Dispatches from the Moral Minefield of Breastfeeding
    (pp. 120-143)

    British sociologist Elizabeth Murphy (1999) first used the concept of the “moral minefield” to describe the complex cultural climate of infant feeding decisions in the contemporary U.K., wherein mothers use diverse strategies to justify their feeding plans in order to avoid being seen as morally deviant. Although Murphy’s work documented multiple forms of moral judgment that surround both breastfeeding and formula feeding, she focused especially on how women who do not plan to breastfeed and those who switch from breastfeeding to formula feeding account for their decision. This focus was motivated by the emphasis in public health discourses in the...

  10. Chapter 5 Breastfeeding as Men’s “Kin Work”
    (pp. 144-170)

    In a controversialAtlantic Monthlyarticle titled “The Case Against Breastfeeding,” journalist Hanna Rosin (2009) compared breastfeeding to “this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down.” Rosin argued that breastfeeding mothers’ exclusive involvement in breastfeeding leads to a fundamental rearrangement of the division of labor that results in greater freedom and power for fathers and a restricted domestic role for mothers. Rosin’s investigation of the medical literature prompted her to conclude that the minimal benefits of breastfeeding in an industrial society simply do not warrant undertaking this gendered labor of breastfeeding.

    Rosin’s critique calls...

  11. Chapter 6 Breastfeeding Babies in the Nest: Producing Children, Kinship, and Moral Imagination in the House
    (pp. 171-207)

    A rich body of anthropological research addresses how the house, its occupants, and the relations among them co-produce one another through the material qualities of the house and the activities and movements that take place within its spaces.¹ This chapter explores how nighttime breastfeeding and related sleep arrangements offered similarly important sites for the mutual production of persons, kinship, and houses in Green City. In seeking houses suitable for raising children, and especially in the process of constructing new spaces for their babies during pregnancy, expectant parents actively located and produced their children’s personhood in and through the house. Separate...

  12. Chapter 7 Time to Sleep: Nighttime Breastfeeding and Capitalist Temporal Regimes
    (pp. 208-239)

    Just as the embodied practice of breastfeeding disrupted the spatialized cultural expectations for children’s personhood that I described in the previous chapter, it also upended aspects of personhood anchored to the rhythms of day and night. I found that parental experiences of fatigue, while seemingly a “natural” by-product of caring for young children, resulted from conflicts between competing pressures of capitalist time regimes that structured couples’ lives and influenced ideologies of children’s personhood, and the moral desire to fulfill cultural expectations to breastfeed. Parents’ navigation of these pressures revealed different degrees of willingness and ability to adjust their own bodies...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 240-244)

    In this book I have drawn on a diverse set of approaches to develop deeper insights into how middle-class U.S. parents negotiate the cultural complexities that surround breastfeeding and related sleep arrangements. I began by tracing the origins of why breastfeeding and related sleep arrangements are problematic in the U.S. and investigated the contradictory role of biomedicine in this process and feminist responses to this involvement. I then turned to my own ethnographic evidence to examine how the moral dilemmas of breastfeeding, especially nighttime breastfeeding, are shaped and negotiated by middle-class families in Green City. Using the ethnographic study of...

  14. Appendix I. Sleeping/Feeding Log
    (pp. 245-246)
  15. Appendix II. Table of Demographic Characteristics of the Couples Involved in the Study
    (pp. 247-248)
  16. Appendix III. Biographical Sketches of the Core Participants
    (pp. 249-260)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-288)
  18. Index
    (pp. 289-299)