We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Breast or Bottle?

Contemporary Controversies in Infant-Feeding Policy and Practice

Amy Koerber

Publication Year: 2013

Breast or Bottle? is the first scholarly examination of the shift in breastfeeding recommendations occurring over the last half century. Through a close analysis of scientific and medical controversies and a critical examination of the ways in which medical beliefs are communicated to the public, Amy Koerber exposes layers of shifting arguments and meaning that inform contemporary infant-feeding advocacy and policy. Whereas the phrase "breast or bottle" might once have implied a choice between two relative equals, human milk is now believed to possess unique health-promoting qualities. Although it is tempting to view this revision in medical thinking as solely the result of scientific progress, Koerber argues that a progress-based interpretation is incomplete. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrating the health benefits of human milk has grown in recent years, but the story of why these forms of evidence have dramatically increased in recent decades, Koerber reveals, is a tale of the dedicated individuals, coalitions, and organizations engaged in relentless rhetorical efforts to improve our scientific explanations and cultural appreciation of human milk, lactation, and breastfeeding in the context of a historical tendency to devalue these distinctly female aspects of the human body. Koerber demonstrates that the rhetoric used to promote breastfeeding at a given time and cultural moment not only reflects a preexisting reality but also shapes the infant-feeding experience for new mothers. Koerber's claims are grounded in extensive rhetorical research including textual analysis, archival research, and interviews with key stakeholders in the breastfeeding controversy. Her approach offers a vital counterpoint to other feminist analyses of the shift toward probreastfeeding scientific discourse and presents a revealing rhetorical case study in the complex relationship between scientific data and its impact on medical policy and practices. The resulting interdisciplinary study will be of keen interest to scholars and students of rhetoric, communication, women's studies, medical humanities, and public health as well as medical practitioners and policymakers.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
p. 1-1

Breast or Bottle?

pdf iconDownload PDF (437.6 KB)
pp. 2-3


pdf iconDownload PDF (442.2 KB)
p. 5-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (442.6 KB)
pp. 6-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (438.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more

Series Editor’s Preface

pdf iconDownload PDF (460.3 KB)
pp. ix-x

Amy Koerber writes that scientific evidence in recent decades strongly supports the value of infant breastfeeding because of its profound benefits in strengthening the human immune system. This support has been a major shift in the public framing of scientific thinking. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (462.6 KB)
pp. xi-xiv

Although it seems like a long time ago, acknowledgments for this project extend all the way back to my dissertation at the University of Minnesota. In writing the dissertation, I benefited greatly from mentoring and writing guidance from my advisor Mary Lay Schuster and from committee members Laura Gurak, Arthur Walzer, and Karlyn Kohrs Campbell. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (497.7 KB)
pp. 1-10

Just a few decades ago, the notion that human milk contains immuneprotective qualities was routinely dismissed by medical experts, even referred to as the stuff of “wives’ tales and folklore.”1 Now the American Academy of Family Physicians states in a position paper that “not breastfeeding is associated with increased risks of common conditions ...

read more

1. Infant Feeding and Rhetoric: An Overview

pdf iconDownload PDF (526.0 KB)
pp. 11-31

The recent intensification and proliferation of pro-breastfeeding messages in the United States can be traced to a highly publicized policy statement that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in 1997. The statement urged women to breastfeed for at least the first year of the infant’s life and stipulated that breastfeeding is “the reference or normative model ...

read more

2. From “Wives’ Tales and Folklore” to Scientific Fact: Rhetorics of Breastfeeding and Immunity in the Mid–Twentieth Century

pdf iconDownload PDF (523.9 KB)
pp. 32-51

The idea that human milk affords the nursing infant a unique form of immune protection is not new. In fact, an immunology article published in 1988 cites an 1892 German study as the first to report that human milk affords some kind of immune protection.1 A pediatrics article published in 1974 cites studies dated 1922, 1934, 1935, 1958, and 1961, ...

read more

3. Articulating Knowledge and Practice: The Rhetoric of Infant-Feeding Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (543.7 KB)
pp. 52-78

We now take a more in-depth look at the three AAP policy statements that have communicated the organization’s official stance on breastfeeding during the last three decades. The first statement, titled “The Promotion of Breastfeeding,” was authored by the AAP Task Force on the Promotion of Breastfeeding and published in 1982. ...

read more

4. Viral Rhetoric: Breast and Bottle in Current Promotional Discourse

pdf iconDownload PDF (641.7 KB)
pp. 79-104

A poster published by the American Academy of Pediatrics contains the following text about human milk’s immune-protective qualities: “New babies are at risk for many infections. It is important that they receive all recommended immunizations. Breast milk is not only the perfect food, but is loaded with infection-fighting substances that help protect babies right from birth. ...

read more

5. Rhetorical Agency and Resistance in the Context of Infant Feeding

pdf iconDownload PDF (535.5 KB)
pp. 105-129

As we continue to analyze how the breast–bottle controversy impacts the mothers targeted by today’s messages about infant feeding, we turn to consider the messages that women are hearing about infant feeding from friends, relatives, and health-care professionals, and through other informal means of communication. ...

read more

6. Feminism, Rhetoric, and Breastfeeding: Some Concluding Remarks

pdf iconDownload PDF (525.6 KB)
pp. 130-150

In an August 29, 2008, interview with People magazine, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was asked how she could handle running for vice president while being a mother of five children, one of whom was still an infant. Palin started with her usual reply about the many challenges she had faced, but on this occasion she added some interesting language: ...

Appendix: Research Participants

pdf iconDownload PDF (467.6 KB)
pp. 151-156


pdf iconDownload PDF (514.0 KB)
pp. 157-168


pdf iconDownload PDF (498.7 KB)
pp. 169-178


pdf iconDownload PDF (508.4 KB)
pp. 179-190

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172461
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611172416

Page Count: 204
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication