Back to the Breast
Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America
University of Chicago Press 2015
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network February 3, 2016 Carla Nappi
Jessica Martucci‘s fascinating new book traces the emergence, rise, and continued practice of breastfeeding in America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America (University of Chicago Press, 2015) looks at the lives and work of scientists, nurses, medical researchers, lay groups, doctors, and mothers to understand the shifting meanings of breastfeeding since the 1930s. Early chapters that explore the construction of a modern ideology of “natural motherhood” in the “psy-ences” and beyond, and look carefully at the medical profession’s interest in breastfeeding in the early-mid twentieth century. The next chapters consider the roles that women played – as mothers and nurses – in the survival of the practice through the midcentury, and consider the rise of lay organizations like La Leche League. The last chapters of the book follow the development and rise of breast pump technology and the “professionalization of breastfeeding expertise,” and consider how the events chronicled in the book continue to shape mothers’ experiences with breastfeeding, suggesting ways for addressing the “ongoing tensions surrounding” arguments that mothers should go “back to the breast.” It is a wonderfully readable and carefully researched study that I highly recommend!