Liquid gold or Russian roulette? Risk and human milk sharing in the US news media
Abbreviated Journal Title
Health Risk Soc.
intensive mothering; risk; milk sharing; breastfeeding; milk banks; FEEDING DISCOURSE; MOTHERHOOD; RESPONSIBILITY; CONSTRUCTIONS; EXPERIENCES; INTERNET; FORMULA; PENALTY; WOMEN; BANKS; Public, Environmental & Occupational Health; Social Sciences, Biomedical
The exchange of human breast milk, a common and well-established practice, has become a site of public controversy in the US. There is controversy over the use of the internet to facilitate milk exchange and public interest in the practice has been stimulated by a research article published in the journal Pediatrics that identified high levels of potentially harmful bacteria in breast milk sold online. In this article we use feminist critical discourse analysis to critically examine how breast milk sharing is represented in a sample of 30 articles from US print newspapers published in 2010-2013. We found complex and contradictory images of human milk, with medically supervised milk banks represented as a life-saving entity, nature's 'liquid gold', whereas peer sharing of breast milk was represented as dangerous, and in this context breast milk was represented as a potentially life-threatening substance. Women who donated milk to milk banks were represented as altruistic and those who obtained their babies' milk from the milk bank were represented as responsible and acting in the best interests of their babies. In contrast women who participated in peer milk sharing were represented at best as ill-informed about the risks to babies and at worst, morally reprehensible for disregarding the risks. Mothers who fed their babies this milk were represented as irresponsible and playing 'Russian roulette' with their babies. We argue that such contradictory representations are grounded in concerns in high income countries such as the USA with the control and surveillance of the female body through discourses of risk and are based on cultural constructions of individualism and intensive mothering.
Health Risk & Society
"Liquid gold or Russian roulette? Risk and human milk sharing in the US news media" (2015). Faculty Bibliography 2010s. 6453.