chapter  4
14 Pages

Breastsleeping in four cultures 1

Comparative analysis of a biocultural body technique
ByCecília Tomori

This investigation unites Mauss’s classic work on body techniques and McKenna and Gettler’s recent construct of breastsleeping – the integrated combination of breastfeeding and shared sleep – in a comparative analysis of breastsleeping in four cultures. Case studies from Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala and Japan offer insight into breastsleeping as an unremarkable and even a welcome everyday (or everynight) practice, compared with a case from the United States, where breastsleeping goes against prevailing cultural norms and medical recommendations. My research suggests that a renewed interest in breastfeeding has prompted an unexpected “rediscovery” of breastsleeping, which challenges cultural ideologies of mother-child separation and independence. This work simultaneously highlights the physiological and evolutionary interconnectedness as well as the cultural contingence of the intercorporeal habitus of breastsleeping, and offers an example of innovative integrated anthropological scholarship on breastfeeding.