At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States

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Beacon Press, 2000 - Social Science - 296 pages
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"I can't recommend this book highly enough!" -Katha Pollitt In our ironic, "postfeminist" age few experiences inspire the kind of passions that breastfeeding does. For advocates, breastfeeding is both the only way to supply babies with proper nutrition and the "bond" that cements the mother/child relationship. Mother's milk remains "natural" in a world of genetically modified produce and corporate health care. But is it a realistic option for all women? And can a well-intentioned insistence on the necessity of breastfeeding become just another way to cast some women as bad mothers? "At the Breast is feminist research of the highest order, setting a standard for how the work ought to be done. . . What is striking and admirable about [Blum's] analysis is that in a discussion that has been almost entirely subsumed in concerns about what is best for babies, Blum focuses unwaveringly on mothers, on women as minded social beings." -Barbara Katz Rothman, American Journal of Sociology "[Blum] discovers that in the contemporary world such an ancient and seemingly natural procedure as breastfeeding is embedded in a plethora of historical, political, racial, and economic contexts. . . . For the modern feminist, Blum concludes, the choice between the bottle or the breast should proceed from a careful assessment of the woman's own needs and desires." -Kirkus Reviews "In the hands of Linda Blum, breastfeeding is a locus for conversations between women in different race and class locations about the female body, children's needs, and the legitimizing role of fathers." -Ellen Ross, author of Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London, 1870-1918 "At the Breast is sociology at its best-we think of breastfeeding as 'natural' but of course it is social and cultural too. Blum's discussion of how race and class shape women's attitudes toward breastfeeding-and their chances of success with it-was a revelation to me." -Katha Pollitt, columnist, The Nation Linda M. Blum is author of Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement. She teaches sociology and women's studies at the University of New Hampshire, and wrote this book while a Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

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At the breast: ideologies of breastfeeding and motherhood in the contemporary United States

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Breastfeeding is usually considered a part of child rearing and a method of providing nutrition; this book by a sociologist examines it from a different perspective. By studying the history of ... Read full review

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I found this book to be a bit of a mish-mash. It's extraordinarily well-written and accessible for a scholarly volume. Part history and part sociological investigation, Blum writes clearly and well, and pretty neutrally - she neither endorses nor condemns breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. She does spend a lot of time on the economic realities of parenting, especially single parenting, and how it meshes with "intensive motherhood" and the aspirations of perfect parenting. However, while an interesting series of sections, I somehow feel like I missed a conclusion or overall uniting theme (aside from perhaps "mothering is hard"). It feels like it could have been two books - breastfeeding on one hand, and motherhood on the other. But I'm still glad I read it, because each mini-book was interesting for its own sake. 


Breast Is Best
Breastfeeding with the Experts and the State
Mother to Mother in La Leche League
White WorkingClass Respectable Mothers
AfricanAmerican WorkingClass Mothers
TwentyFirstCentury Virtual Mothers or Rounded Mothers?
APPENDIX A Statement of Ms Monica Johnson for the University of Michigan Women of Color Task Force
APPENDIX B Methodology
Mass Circulation Magazine Articles 19631993

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About the author (2000)

Linda M. Blum is author of Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement. She teaches sociology and women's studies at the Univer sity of New Hampshire and lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

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