Affect, corporeality and the limits of belonging: breastfeeding in public in the contemporary UK

Health Place. 2012 May;18(3):552-60. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.01.010. Epub 2012 Feb 3.


The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding duration rates in the industrialised world. This paper considers women's experiences breastfeeding in public as a factor in breastfeeding duration. Research is based on an analysis of: 11 interviews and a 46-person survey of new mothers in Southampton, Hampshire; 180 postings about breastfeeding in public on UK parenting website mumsnet; and a patent application for a 'portable lactation module'. I analyse these data through an engagement with the work of cultural theorist Sara Ahmed to argue that the 'limits of sociability' in public space in the UK can be marked through affective practice. This paper makes three unique contributions to scholarship. First, it increases understanding regarding an issue of direct importance to health policy by filling a gap in knowledge about women's experiences breastfeeding outside the home in the UK. Second, it contributes to the field of health geography by showing how affective environments can constrain health-promoting behaviours. Third, it extends conceptual work in human geography more broadly through an analysis of the relationships between affect, embodiment and urban subjectivity.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Public Facilities*
  • Social Control, Informal*