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Breastfeed Med. 2009 Oct;4 Suppl 1:S41-3. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2009.0035.

Inadequate: a metaphor for the lives of low-income women?

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Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry , Rochester, New York.


Exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first 6 months of life with continued breastfeeding for at least 6 more months occurs only 11.9% of the time in the United States. Efforts of the past 30 years to promote optimal breastfeeding practices have had little impact. In order to create significant change in the way we feed infants in this country, we need to change the way we look at this public health issue and examine the cultural logic that makes bottle feeding the preferred choice of most U.S. women. This article analyzes the term "inadequate" not just as self-description of a woman's milk supply, but also as a metaphor for the lives of low-income women in the United States, the group least likely to breastfeed. Low-income women in the United States not only have inadequate incomes as compared to the general population, but inadequate child care, education, preventive health services, inadequate lifespans, and lives saturated with violence, leaving them inadequately safe even in their own homes. Here we outline a research agenda to explore the relationship between socially determined inadequacies and the cultural logic that makes bottle feeding a preferred form of infant feeding.

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