The Social Construction of Stigma Associated with the Normalization of Breastfeeding
Mount Saint Vincent University
Through autoethnography, I describe, analyze, and interpret my personal and professional experiences related to breastfeeding promotion. I link my experiences to the literature and weave relevant theory throughout. A conceptual framework, the Social Ecological Model (SEM), is used as a sensitizing concept to guide the organization, presentation, and analysis of my experiences. In Part 1, I describe my experiences as a public health dietitian whose role involved breastfeeding promotion and support. I expose my tensions associated with the expert-driven imperative to breastfeed. In Part 2, I describe and interpret my experiences as a mother who “failed” to meet the national public policy’s infant feeding ideal: to exclusively breastfeed for six months and beyond. I expose the dominant discourses that have influenced the stigma associated with the use of infant formula, including health as a duty, intensive motherhood, mother blame, and the quiet coercions used to guide infant feeding decisions. I describe how strategies in place to normalize breastfeeding stigmatize women who do not comply. These strategies do not comply with ethical principles of evidence-based practice, person-centred care, and informed choice.
breastfeeding normalization, pressure to breastfeed, stigma