Long-Term Breastfeeding : The Embodied Experiences of Finnish Mothers
Säilävaara, Jenny (2020). Long-Term Breastfeeding : The Embodied Experiences of Finnish Mothers. NORA : Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 28 (1), 43-55. DOI: 10.1080/08038740.2019.1694581
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© 2019 The Nordic Association for Women’s Studies and Gender Research
Mothers’ experiences constitute a central and widely discussed issue within feminist breastfeeding research. Less is said however, about long-term breastfeeding in relation to embodiment. This article analyses the embodied experiences of Finnish mothers who have breastfed for over a year. Through a feminist lens, and an inductive qualitative content analysis, the written accounts of 39 long-term breastfeeding mothers were analysed, to show how mothers reflect on embodiment while breastfeeding long-term. Mothers described their embodied experiences in relation to four themes: functionality of the body; tiredness; beauty norms; and pleasure. The study reveals their accounts of bodily changes and experiences, in particular their conception of functionality over objectivity, the societal expectations they face, and the vexed question of bodily pleasure. Mothers emphasized the functionality of their bodies in being able to breastfeed long-term, which positively changed the way in which they experienced their body. Tiredness was discussed, but positive emotions towards long-term breastfeeding were more common. Mothers recognized the beauty norms related to the female body but often discussed changes in their own bodies with humour, which balanced the pressure they felt to fulfil these norms. Women’s breasts are often sexualized, but for these mothers, the pleasure of long-term breastfeeding was more an emotional pleasure rather than anything sexual. By giving a voice to these mothers the article brings experiential knowledge to this under-researched subject. ...