Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 135–152 | Cite as

Managing The Lactating Body: The Breast-Feeding Project and Privileged Motherhood

  • Orit Avishai
Original Paper


Drawing on interviews with twenty-five mostly white, educated, work-force experienced and class-privileged mothers, this paper explores how these women construct the lactating body as a carefully managed site and breast-feeding as a project—a task to be researched, planned, implemented, and assessed, with reliance on expert knowledge, professional advice, and consumption. The framing of breast-feeding as a project contrasts with the emphases on pleasure, embodied subjectivity, relationality, and empowerment that characterizes much of the recent breast-feeding literature across the humanities and social sciences. I argue that the project frame sheds light on the amount of work and self-discipline involved in compliance with broader middle-class mothering standards set in the consumerist, technological, medicalized, and professionalized contexts that shape parenting in late capitalist America.


Breast-feeding Mothering Parenting experts Body management Medicalization 



I thank Raka Ray and Barrie Thorne for their enthusiasm, guidance, and support throughout this project. I am grateful to Linda Blum for her generous comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and to editor Javier Auyero as well as five anonymous reviewers whose insightful comments helped shape the final version of this paper. A Graduate Research Stipend from the Center for Working Families, University of California, Berkeley supported the writing stage of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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