Many food choices are not centrally concerned with food and, even where they are, they do not necessarily relate to the nutritional functions of food. In this paper we report on the findings of a longitudinal interview study of infant feeding practices among first‐time mothers. In feeding their babies, mothers are engaged in a number of different projects, some of which conflict with expert guidance on the nutritional benefits of feeding babies in particular ways. We report on the symbolic and practical purposes which feeding babies in particular ways can serve for women, as they seek to combine infant feeding with their other responsibilities not only as mothers but more generally inside and outside the home. We conclude that women’s infant feeding decisions represent their attempts to reconcile these symbolic and practical tasks and that educational and other interventions which ignore these competing agendas are likely to fail.
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