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Women's liberation and the rhetoric of "choice" in infant feeding debates
Hausman, Bernice L.
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This short essay examines infant formula marketing and information sources for their representation of "choice" in the infant feeding context, and finds that while providing information about breast and bottle feeding, infant formula manufacturers focus on mothers' feelings and intuition rather than knowledge in making decisions. In addition, the essay considers how "choice" operates in the history of reproductive rights, shifting the discourse from a rights-based set of arguments to one based on a consumerist mentality. Utilizing the work of historian Rickie Solinger and a 2007 paper for the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, I argue that the structure of market work, and not abstract maternal decision making, determine mothers' choices and practices concerning infant feeding. For true freedoms for mothers to be achieved, freedoms that would include greater social provisions for mothers, our culture will have to confront how structural constraints make breastfeeding difficult, as well as how the concept of choice divides mothers into those who make good choices and those who do not.