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Breastfeeding and the Production of Maternal Bodies as Part of Holistic Care in Switzerland

Caroline Chautems (University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality

ISBN: 978-1-80071-439-7, eISBN: 978-1-80071-438-0

Publication date: 7 April 2022


Since the 1990s, public health agencies as well as nutrition and child health experts have recognized breastfeeding as the most appropriate infant-feeding mode for optimal health and psycho-emotional development. Consequently, breastfeeding has become a standard of good mothering, internalized by mothers, who implement a demanding self-discipline to perform breastfeeding. This dedication reflects the delegation of biopolitics to individuals in modern neoliberal societies: authoritative experts inform new parents, who then bear the responsibility of their children's health risk management. They are expected to choose appropriate practices as part of a collective strategy of risk management and anticipation of the future by changing current behaviours, aiming at the emergence of a ‘healthy body and mind’ society. Among these practices, breastfeeding holds a central place due to medical consensus about its benefits. In my ethnography of postpartum consultations by independent midwives in Switzerland, I studied the breastfeeding practices and experiences of home birth parents as part of the ‘holistic care’ provided by these midwives. Shadowing midwives during their postpartum visits between 2014 and 2017, I witnessed parents committing to the body and emotional work required to carry out their ‘breastfeeding project’, designed in continuity with their out-of-hospital birth choice. During their follow-ups, midwives engage with parents in a shared construction of meanings around breastfeeding, anchoring parenting identities in the body. I explore in this chapter the issues raised by the production of lactating maternal bodies and how women engage in body and emotional work to achieve it.



Chautems, C. (2022), "Breastfeeding and the Production of Maternal Bodies as Part of Holistic Care in Switzerland", Guerzoni, C.S. and Mattalucci, C. (Ed.) Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 39-56.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Caroline Chautems. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited