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Feeding bouts and nipple shields (heading into battle or feeding a baby?)

When did we start talking about breastfeeding as if it was akin to playing a full contact sport? (Like when a feed at the breast is called a “bout.”) And, why are some lactation technologies referred to as body armor? You know, nipple shields, breast shells, and breast pumps called the DEFENDER. Are we talking about going into battle here or nursing a baby? How did the lactating breast become a combat zone between mothers and their babies?

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Feeding babies while homeless in Hawai’i

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. The conference is devoted to highlighting breastfeeding-related research, practice, advocacy, and policy. The meeting theme for 2015 was “Breastfeeding, Social Justice, and Equity: Reflecting, Reclaiming, and Re-visioning,” in celebration of the meeting’s tenth anniversary. I presented my research on maternal-child health disparities in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations in Hawai’i. What follows are some highlights from this presentation.

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About that BMJ Editorial…

From where I’m standing, the regulation of anonymous online milk sales is a red herring. Our efforts and resources should be poured into making breastfeeding an attainable reality for all mothers, not just the privileged few. Critically ill infants need human milk to survive and thrive, but all infants in need should have access to human milk. If regulation or policy can help to level the playing field so that increased breastfeeding and access to safe donor milk may become a reality, then that’s a conversation worth having. But, I would rather get busy tearing down barriers that stand in the way of mothers breastfeeding their own babies and figuring out ways of delivering breast milk from healthy donors, wherever and whenever it is needed.

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Ethnographies of Breastfeeding

Understanding demedicalization as acts of resistance is also important in refocusing attention on the ways individuals exercise agency and seek empowerment despite hegemonic influences; a focus on demedicalization leads to an understanding of the everyday practices of resistance to medicalization. This analysis is on the ways in which milk sharing is enacted to demedicalize women’s bodies, the fluids they produce, and the babies they nourish.

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Taking milk from strangers

Milk sharing has deep social (and some might argue biological) roots. It’s not going to just go away because health authorities caution against it. It is part of our past, our present, and most likely our future. What is happening online is just scratching the surface. Clearly, we need a better understanding of the social context of milk sharing risk and risk reduction strategies people use.

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