The Body as a Site of Care: Food and Lactating Bodies in the U.S.

Lindsay Naylor

The breast/chestfeeding body is a site of intense politics and power relations in the United States. Hardly a week passes without an incident in the news of a person being publically shamed, or unlawfully asked to change their behavior while using their body to feed their infant in public. Lactating bodies are deemed out-of-place. Simultaneously, birth-parents are judged on their infant feeding practices, with those who do not nurse cast outside of the biologically deterministic ‘good mother’ role. This framing causes the nursing or not-nursing body to become a site of debate. These takes, which point to governance, surveillance, and sexualization of bodies are limiting and have brought these debates to an impasse. What I suggest here is that a re-reading is needed, which situates the body as a site of care, here I focus on the lactating body in particular considering food production, co-production, and consumption. Re-reading the body in this way illuminates how food production and care work are undervalued as related to infant feeding and re-casts the act of nursing as not about ‘women’s bodies’ but about food + care. Ultimately, such work allows for bodies to be considered multiple and as transformational sites of knowledge production.

Suggested citation

Naylor, Lindsay. 2022. “The Body as a Site of Care: Food and Lactating Bodies in the U.S.” Gender, Place & Culture 29 (3): 440–49.