chapter  7
‘Queer Breastfeeding’: (Im)proper Spaces of Lactation
Pages 16

Australian feminist Fiona Giles (2004: 301) examines ‘breastfeeding behaviours [that sit] outside the normative constraints that apply in contemporary Western culture.’ She refers to these behaviours as ‘queer breasting’. Giles (2004: 301) explains the ‘contemporary norm is that between 50-90 percent of mothers in industrialized nations will begin breastfeeding their babies before leaving hospital, and wean them within the fi rst year.’ Some breastfeeding, however, sits outside this norm. In her book Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Giles explains:

Western culture tends to think of women’s milk only in relation to the babies they might choose to feed. We think of lactating women as immediately postpartum, still wrapped in the aura of childbirth and laden with the trappings of infancy: bassinets, strollers, blankets, diaper bags … lactating breasts are connected to the hospital bed, to nursing bras and nursing pads, and special diets, and sleepless nights, and hollow-eyed jealous husbands. They are medically scrutinized, gently massaged, and intensely discussed during the time they are used. Then, when the fl ow is stanched, they are primly returned to their lacy cage, to be admired again according to purely aesthetic considerations. (Giles 2003: xii)

The aim of Giles’s book is to examine the social meanings of breastfeeding (as opposed to the nutritional content or medical benefi ts of ‘mothers’ milk’) which have not to date been paid much academic attention. Giles covers subjects such as cooking with breast milk, donating milk to a milk bank after the death of a child, adult nursing, and lactation pornography as well as some of the more rehearsed subjects such as weaning an older child and mastitis. Well-known popularist writer on pregnancy and birth, Kitzinger, claims that Giles’s book says ‘All the things that the other books about breastfeeding don’t say’ (front cover).