Ethics and Ideology in Breastfeeding Advocacy Campaigns


  • Rebecca Kukla


Mothers serve as an important layer of the health-care system, with special responsi-bilities to care for the health of families and nations. In our social discourse, we tend to treat maternal “choices” as though they were morally and causally Self-contained units of influence with primary control over children's health. In this essay, I use infant feeding as a lens for examining the ethical contours of mothers’ caretaking practices and responsibilities, as they are situated within cultural meanings and institutional pressures. I give a close critical reading of the content and strategy of the new breastfeeding advocacy campaign sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. I argue that the campaign is unlikely to substantially increase breastfeeding rates, unresponsive and even hostile to many women's actual concerns about breastfeeding, and well positioned to produce shame and compromise agency among the women it targets.