Requirements to Justify Breastfeeding in Public: A philosophical analysis

International Breastfeeding Journal 14 (14):14-26 (2019)
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It may be tempting for breastfeeding advocates to respond to challenges to breastfeeding older children or breastfeeding in public by pointing out the nutritional or developmental benefits of breastfeeding or by noting that breastfeeding is often extremely discreet. Such responses may concede more than they should: by focusing on rebutting the empirical claim, breastfeeding supporters may end up implicitly accepting two presuppositions about breastfeeding: first, the presupposition that breastfeeding requires justification in terms of health or developmental benefits to the child; second, the presupposition that breastfeeding in public is only acceptable if assumed standards of discretion are met. This paper aims to use the methods of analytic philosophy to: (a) show how, if left unchallenged, these implicit assumptions can become part of the pragmatic presuppositions of the conversation, so that the discussion proceeds taking their acceptance for granted; (b) argue that we can expect these presuppositions to have negative effects on all mothers, no matter how they feed their babies, and on the tenor of public discussion of infant feeding; (c) reconstruct the reasoning that might underlie these presuppositions and show that this reasoning is mistaken; (d) show that recognising breastfeeding as a family way of life and a loving interaction between parent and child gives rise to a moral right to breastfeed in public without social sanction, whether one is able to breastfeed discreetly or not.

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Fiona Woollard
University of Southampton


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