Contemporary breast-feeding policy and practice: Implications for midwives

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2001, 17 (1), pp. 44 - 54
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In this paper, the authors draw upon recent Australian research to provide a critical commentary on the current policies and professional practices surrounding breast feeding. These studies, conducted by the first and second authors, explored aspects of the breast-feeding experience, with the findings highlighting areas for concern in relation to the promotion and support of breast feeding in western societies. Of particular concern to the authors was the number of women in these studies who equated breastfeeding with being a 'good' mother. This perception meant that some women maintained a strong commitment to breast feeding despite enormous difficulties. In this paper we firstly, overview the findings of these studies and use women's stories to illustrate their perseverance and their intense commitment to breast feeding. In the second part of the paper, we consider the consequences of the strong public rhetoric surrounding breast feeding in Australia and challenge some of the assumptions underlying policies and professional practices related to breast feeding. We examine the consequences of 'professionalising' breast feeding, and make suggestions for a way forward in the promotion of breast feeding that encompasses the range of perspectives held by women. In conclusion, the authors highlight the complexity of establishing appropriate breast-feeding policies that guide professional practices in a flexible manner, allowing for diversity in individual breast-feeding experiences. © 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
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