• deviance;
  • morality;
  • accounts;
  • breast feeding;
  • motherhood

The insistence that breast feeding confers unique and significant benefits upon children underpins both health policy and professional practice and is part of the context in which women decide how to feed their babies and, in turn, how they display and defend their decisions. This paper applies a framework, drawn from the sociology of deviance, to the accounts which women give of their infant feeding intentions. It draws upon data from a longitudinal qualitative interview study of the food choices made by mothers on behalf of their infants and young children, to show how such choices are irreducibly moral and that the ways in which women can be judged, or indeed judge themselves, to be deviant are legion. However mothers decide to feed their babies, infant feeding is a highly accountable matter. Whether they intend to breast feed or formula feed, women face considerable interactional challenges as they seek to establish that they are not only good mothers but also good partners and good women.