An everyday trauma: How the media portrays infant feeding
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Authors: Angell, C.
© The Author(s) 2017. Infant feeding is a fundamental element in the childbirth continuum. A woman’s decision about whether to breastfeed, and the duration and exclusivity of this, has the potential to affect short and long term health for both herself and her baby (Vitora et al. 2016). When making infant-feeding choices mothers often feel obliged to conform to the expectations of their family, social group and culture (Angell et al. 2011). In addition, women are influenced by the wider society in which they live, and many report feeling pressurized, shamed and marginalised by other people in relation to their infant feeding (Thomson et al. in Maternal & Child Nutrition 11: 33-46, 2015). Although women’s choices are essentially personal and private, strong public opinions on the subject transform it into ‘everybody’s business’. This is exacerbated by mass media, which has become a conduit through which social and individual views on infant feeding are presented and debated. Curiously, the ‘everyday’ nature of this subject means that it often appears in the media in a covert manner, when it is unconsciously included as a minor element in a wider story. In other cases infant feeding is the story, and it appears in the media as a problematic issue and the focus of discussion (Henderson et al. in British Medical Journal 321: 1196-1198, 2000). During the past two decades a small body of research has emerged which has explored how infant feeding is presented in newspapers, magazines and television, in a range different countries and cultures. This chapter will review the existing literature and consider how the media might influence infant feeding behaviour, both currently and in the future.