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Misshapen motherhood: placing breastfeeding distress


Robinson, C, Misshapen motherhood: placing breastfeeding distress, Emotion, Space and Society, 26 pp. 41-48. ISSN 1755-4586 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.emospa.2016.09.008


In this article, my general aim is to give place to the experiences of breastfeeding distress which emerged during narrative research with mothers in Australia. I suggest that breastfeeding distress must be read not only in terms of the specific socio-spatial landscape through which it takes hold but also in terms of the lived and often non-compliant landscape of the body itself. Informed by accounts of the dominant context of idealized or exclusive motherhood in nations such as Australia, the UK and USA, and drawing on conceptual work concerned with connecting the cultural and corporeal through thinking about place, I explore two instances of breastfeeding distress: pain and inauthenticity. In both of these contexts women battle with the shameful fallout of being unable to perform what Rebecca Kukla describes as ‘proximate mothering’, exemplified in the figure of the breastfeeding mother exclusively able to latch her baby directly to her breasts. As I discuss, women's experiences of extreme pain during breastfeeding and their use of alternative ‘inauthentic’ modes of feeding (such as bottled pumped breastmilk or formula) shatter their expectations of living the ideal of extended maternal embodiment. Also emerging through these distressing experiences, however, is a potentially resilient awareness of the inherently misshapen nature of motherhood which always overflows its idealized state.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:breastfeeding, distress, pain, inauthenticity, failure, misshapen motherhood, placing breastfeeding
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Human geography
Research Field:Social geography
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Women's and maternal health
UTAS Author:Robinson, C (Dr Catherine Robinson)
ID Code:149591
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Sociology and Criminology
Deposited On:2022-04-05
Last Modified:2022-05-18

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