Empowerment or Regulation? Women’s Perspectives on Expressing Milk

Sally Johnson, Dawn Leeming, Steven Lyttle, Iain Williamson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Recent research suggests that expressing breast milk may be an increasingly common practice during early infant feeding, yet relatively little is known about the reasons for this practice.1Moreover, there is little explicit analysis of early milk expression in the feminist infant feeding literature. That which does exist suggests contradictory theorization. It has been suggested that expressing represents a type of regulation, in that it imposes an external form of control upon breastfeeding. Thus, milk expression offers a way of managing future expectations about returning to work or normal life and activities while continuing to breastfeed. In addition, the use of breast pumps has been theorized as contributing to the commercialization, medicalization, and mechanization of breastfeeding and a focus on milk as a product rather than breastfeeding as a process.2On the other hand, expressing has the potential to be empowering, in that it allows for greater paternal involvement in infant feeding and increased freedom for women.3Our recent analysis of experiences of expressing milk with a group of first-time British mothers suggested that the women accounted for the practice of expressing in ways that, in feminist terms, could be seen as potentially both empowering and disempowering.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Health, Beyond Choice
Subtitle of host publicationBreastfeeding Constraints and Realities
EditorsPaige Hall Smith, Bernice Hausman, Miriam Labbok
PublisherRutgers University
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780813553160
ISBN (Print)9780813553030, 9780813553047
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2012

Publication series

NameCritical Issues in Health and Medicine
PublisherRutgers University Press

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