Breastfeeding is a human bodily function that differs in practice across cultural and historical boundaries, yet is framed as “natural” and morally virtuous. Breastfeeding and the Pursuit of Happiness rejects the dichotomy of right versus wrong, exploring the historical, political, and symbolic roots of this sacrosanct belief in “breast is best” – from allusions to biblical milk and honey to contemporary claims of parenting and wellness experts.
Within disparate contexts such as medieval Europe, eighteenth-century France, contemporary Indonesia, and the mommy blogosphere, Phyllis Rippey finds that infant feeding prescriptions often serve the interests of the powerful rather than meeting the needs of women, infants, and families. Upending some of our most cherished beliefs about the maternal breast, Rippey reveals the ways historical and contemporary debates over breast versus bottle feeding distract from the underlying issues of poverty, environmental destruction, and violence against women. Rippey balances science-based and historical analysis with the stories of lesbian mothers and trans fathers, Black and White breastfeeding advocates, and Indonesian mothers, among other mothers who express feelings of empowerment, pleasure, pain, and moral failure.
At turns witty, heartbreaking, and intellectually compelling, Breastfeeding and the Pursuit of Happiness draws on Hannah Arendt, Black feminist thought, affect theory, the ethics of care, and theories of political humility to offer a new framework for valuing and affirming the human power of giving and receiving care, including through the breast.
About the author
Phyllis L.F. Rippey is associate professor of sociology in the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at the University of Ottawa.
“Phyllis Rippey offers a highly provocative account of breastfeeding as a socially-constructed practice central to gender oppression. Her arguments are sure to incite vigorous and renewed debate.” Linda Blum, author of At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States
“Breastfeeding and the Pursuit of Happiness offers an innovative interdisciplinary challenge to the normative dimensions of breastfeeding promotion and its demand on women to save the world. The book is a must-read for those interested in how women's bodies have been used, abused, and rendered saviours of the human condition.” Bernice L. Hausman, author of Viral Mothers: Breastfeeding in the Age of HIV/AIDS
“Breastfeeding and the Pursuit of Happiness draws on a diverse range of feminist and critical theories to cut through the well-worn debates over breastfeeding’s liberatory versus oppressive potential for women. This innovative and accessible book uses a range of methods to tell an important story about power, gender, and breastfeeding narratives. It makes a significant contribution to a scholarly thinking in this field, and is a wonderful read.” Fiona Robinson, author of The Ethics of Care: A Feminist Approach to Human Security