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Militant Lactivism?

Attachment Parenting and Intensive Motherhood in the UK and France

Charlotte Faircloth

278 pages, 5 illus. & 1 table, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-758-5 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (March 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-759-2 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors


This is an attentive ethnography of women in London and Paris who are members of the international breastfeeding support organisation La Leche League (LLL)… The book is written in a clear and engaging way and can be recommended to students and scholars interested in kinship and family studies, as well as for those looking for a good anthropological study on contemporary motherhood.”  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

This is a captivating, original, and methodologically sound study, which will make an important contribution to anthropological work on contemporary motherhood. It deserves to be much more widely read, however, by scholars in many other disciplines and outside the academy.”  ·  Ellie Lee, University of Kent

The cross-cultural dimension is one of the things that make this book unique and especially valuable…Overall, the book is on an important topic, based on sound research. This is a major contribution to scholarship on parenting, and a compelling study of a subject now in the forefront of public debate.”  ·  Linda Layne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/University of Cambridge

Following networks of mothers in London and Paris, the author profiles the narratives of women who breastfeed their children to full term, typically a period of several years, as part of an 'attachment parenting' philosophy. These mothers talk about their decision to continue breastfeeding as 'the natural thing to do': 'evolutionarily appropriate', 'scientifically best' and 'what feels right in their hearts'. Through a theoretical focus on knowledge claims and accountability, the author frames these accounts within a wider context of 'intensive parenting', arguing that parenting practices – infant feeding in particular – have become a highly moralized affair for mothers, practices which they feel are a critical aspect of their 'identity work'. The book investigates why, how and with what implications some of these mothers describe themselves as 'militant lactivists' and reflects on wider parenting culture in the UK and France. Discussing gender, feminism and activism, this study contributes to kinship and family studies by exploring how relatedness is enacted in conjunction to constructions of the self.

Charlotte Faircloth is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow with the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Sociological Research at the University of Kent.

Series: Volume 24, Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality: Social and Cultural Perspectives
Subject: Medical Anthropology Gender Studies
Area: Europe

LC: RJ216 .F35 2013

BL: YK.2013.a.15041

BISAC: SOC002010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/Cultural; SOC026010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Sociology/Marriage & Family; SOC028000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Women's Studies

BIC: JFSP1 Age groups: children; JFSJ1 Gender studies: women


List of Illustrations
List of Tables



Chapter 1. Intensive motherhood and identity work

  • An anthropology of parenting?
  • Parenting and/as kinship
  • The UK context
  • Intensive mothering
  • Intensive motherhood: ‘Local moral world’
  • Historicising intensive motherhood
  • Mothering as identity work: Narrative processes of self-making


Chapter 2. Infant feeding and intensive motherhood

  • Breastfeeding
  • The scientific case for breastfeeding
  • The context of infant feeding 1900-present
  • Infant feeding and policy
  • Choosing to breastfeed: Informed choice?
  • Infant feeding and maternal identity


Chapter 3. Contextualising ‘full-term’ breastfeeding

  • La Leche League
  • Research sample
  • Demographic profile: Who comes to LLL meetings?
  • Non-participant observation
  • Accounts
  • Experiences
  • Case-study
  • Contextualising full-term breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding, body boundaries and individuality
  • Defence strategies

Chapter 4. La Leche League: Philosophy and community

  • A typical meeting
  • La Leche League’s philosophy
  • The founding of LLL Great Britain (LLLGB)
  • Paradoxes of appeal
  • LLL and attachment parenting
  • LLL for all mothers?

Chapter 5. ‘Finding my tribe’

  • Why do people come to La Leche League meetings?
  • ‘Finding my tribe’
  • Norms
  • La Leche League as purposeful network
  • Norms
  • Activism
  • Resistance


Chapter 6. ‘It’s natural’: some cultural contradictions

  • Types of natural: Some accounts
  • Natural parenting
  • Evolutionary narratives: Primates and ‘primitives’
  • ‘Natural’ mothering: Feminism and fathers
  • Cultural contradictions of going natural
  • A return to anthropology?
  • Postscript

Chapter 7. ‘What science says is best’: Science as dogma

  • The scientific claim for full-term breastfeeding and attachment parenting
  • Psychological evidence
  • Neuroscience: ‘Real evidence’
  • ‘The Science’
  • ‘The Science’ and ‘informed choice’

Chapter 8. ‘What feels right in my heart’: Hormones, morality and affective breastfeeding

  • Because of the hormones: ‘It feels right’
  • Affective breastfeeding
  • Instinct and intuition: Some contradictions
  • Agency when you ‘just know’
  • A moral good?
  • Affect sensuality and breastfeeding
  • Non-nutritive sucking, or, The affective residue


Chapter 9. Mothering as identity work in cross-cultural perspective: The case of France

  • Making selves: Separation and attachment
  • Paris: A comparison          
  • LLL France
  • Doubled reflexivity
  • French parenting: Non-intensive motherhood?
  • It’s natural? Feminism and (full-term) breastfeeding in France
  • ‘Réunions à théme’: Attachment mothers in Paris
  • Expressing milk: The French way?


Appendix I:
Short term and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding for the child and mother in developed countries
Appendix II: Summary of demographic results from questionnaire responses


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