Breastfeeding Rights in the United States

by Karen M. Kedrowski and Michael E. Lipscomb


Breastfeeding Rights in the United States offers the most detailed critical analysis of breastfeeding law and policy to date, including an examination of their larger social contexts.

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December 2007


Pages 192
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Women's Studies/Politics and Law
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Breastfeeding Rights in the United States shows that the right to breastfeed in this country exists only in a negative sense: you can do it unless someone takes you to court. Kedrowski and Lipscomb catalog and analyze all the laws, policies, judicial opinions, cultural mores, and public attitudes that bear on breastfeeding in America. They then explore the classic double bind: social norms promulgated by the medical and public health establishment say breast is best; but social practices in the workplace and in public spaces make breastfeeding difficult. Aggravating the double bind is the prominence of the breast in American culture as a sexual object. The double bind creates coercively structured choices that are incompatible with the meaningful exercise of rights.

The authors conclude that the solution to this problem requires new theory and new strategy. They posit a new democratic, feminist theory of the breastfeeding right that is predicated on the following distinctions: DT It is not a right to breastfeed, but a right to choose to breastfeed. DT It is a woman's right to choose, not a baby's right to be breastfeed. DT It is a right, not a duty. The authors predict that framing the breastfeeding right in this way provides the basis for a new strategic coalition between breastfeeding advocates and liberal feminists, who have historically been wary of one another's rhetoric. Breastfeeding Rights in the United States represents an important advance toward policy change.



"Although there has been a growing interest recently in the body as a major influence on social theorizing, these perspectives are supplanted in this analysis of breastfeeding as a civil rights issue both by a model of social construction and by the traditional approach of political scientists. Hence the organization of this analysis reflects a conventional focus on history, public opinion, and state as well as national laws, and a concluding chapter touted as democratic feminist....Recommended. General readers and students of all levels."Choice


"An insightful, compassionate study of the way women are reclaiming breasts for themselves, in the public sphere, and beyond the sexualized definition of breasts by the male gaze. The authors are sensitive to the dynamics of race, social class, sexuality, and social location which often lead to targeting biases in public policies such as breast feeding. Weaving in to the analysis the situation of incarcerated women particularly illuminates the intersectionality of gender, race, class, and sexuality and the brave attempts by women from all walks of life to define for themselves how they will feed and nurture their babies. In addition to the stellar analysis of the history, context, social theory, and rights analysis of the issue, the authors offer compelling future policy recommendations to advance the well being of women and their children without essentializing or dictating what mothers should do."—Laura R. Woliver, Department of Political Science Associate Director, Women's Studies Program University of South Carolina

"Drawing upon a wide range of interdisciplinary sources, Breastfeeding Rights in the United States reveals the seemingly private choice to breastfeed as one riddled with social meanings and political complexities. Kedrowski and Lipscomb have written an even-handed, perceptive, and eminently readable book that makes a major scholarly contribution to contemporary conversations about reproductive rights."—Rebecca Kukla, Professor of Internal Medicine and Philosophy, University of South Florida, author of Mass Hysteria: Medicine, Culture, and Mothers' Bodies

"Breastfeeding has commonly been considered an intensely private act, but in a myriad of ways it is a public policy concern for everyone. Kedrowski and Lipscomb give readers a comprehensive treatment, using the breastfeeding rights lens to examine women's different social, economic, and biological contexts. Through a sophisticated treatment of feminist views, the authors unpack the complexity of issues surrounding breastfeeding and women's reproductive rights. A collision course between more women working outside the home and more breastfeeding drives a need for this book and its nuanced democratic, feminist approach to breastfeeding rights."—Georgia Duerst-Lahti, Beloit College

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