Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Breastfeeding, Feminism, and Political Theory

This project situates breastfeeding mothers within feminist liberal political theory, framing breastfeeding as a central human capability in a capabilities approach. It explores the ways in which social and political institutions and norms affect the ability of women to breastfeed; that is, an official legal right to breastfeed is inadequate because breastfeeding mothers demand positive conditions under which breastfeeding is possible given the constraints of their lives. The dissertation systematically considers both women's capability of breastfeeding and women's autonomy. The first chapter explores welfare state theory as it affects breastfeeding workers; an analysis of the literature suggests that overlooking the needs of breastfeeding workers is common and harmful. This chapter concludes that an equality-promoting welfare model is appropriate for breastfeeding workers. Breastfeeding workers need specific protections, protections which may be sex-specific; this chapter shows that sex-specific policies have an important place in equality-promoting welfare models. The second chapter explores the issue of people, including breastfeeding mothers, who evoke discomfort or disgust in public. The analysis shows that public and private spheres must be accessible in certain ways: first, every person must be able to occupy public space while embracing all significant aspects of their personhood; second, the comfort of others cannot weigh more than an individual's own needs in public; finally, all people must be able to opt for privacy in a way that does not entail invisibility or coerced exclusion. The final chapter analyzes the concept of maternal access to children, arguing that breastfeeding mothers require access to their children and that the ability to express breast milk cannot function as a substitute for access. The chapter explores the concept of access through in-depth study of two cases of separations of mothers and their breastfed children: maternal incarceration and custody disputes.