Discursive Constructions of Breastfeeding in U.S. State Laws


Previous research has identified several ways that breastfeeding is constructed in public discourses, each with consequences for breastfeeding attitudes, policies, and practices. Researchers analyzed discursive constructions of breastfeeding in U.S. state laws regarding breastfeeding in public to see if common representations were replicated in law and to identify patterns among states that used similar language. Results indicated that laws varied in the level of protection they offered, with the least protective laws decriminalizing breastfeeding in public and the most protective laws criminalizing interference with breastfeeding. The least protective states were located in the Western and North-Central regions, Republican-leaning, and less urban, whereas the most protective states were located in the New England and North-Central regions, Democrat-leaning, and more urban. Most states that fell on either end of this continuum had breastfeeding rates above the national average. Laws also varied in the level of regulation implied in their language, with the most regulative laws specifying that "a mother" can breastfeed "her baby" only in certain places and under certain conditions (discreetly). The most regulative states were located in the Southern and North-Central regions and had low breastfeeding rates, whereas the least regulative states were Western and had high breastfeeding rates. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Publication Title

Women and Health