Breastfeeding rarely conforms to the idealized Madonna-and-baby image seen in old artwork, now recast in celebrity breastfeeding photo spreads and pro-breastfeeding ad campaigns. The personal accounts in Others’ Milk illustrate just how messy and challenging and unpredictable it can be—an uncomfortable reality in the contemporary context of high-stakes motherhood in which “successful” breastfeeding proves one’s maternal mettle.
Exceptional breastfeeders find creative ways to feed and care for their children—such as by inducing lactation, sharing milk, or exclusively pumping. They want to adhere to the societal ideal of giving them “the best” but sometimes have to face off with dogmatic authorities in order to do so. Kristin J. Wilson argues that while breastfeeding is never going to be the feasible choice for everyone, it should be accessible to anyone.
Kristin J. Wilson, PhD, is chair of the Anthropology Department at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. She received a doctorate in sociology at Georgia State University and an MA in anthropology at the University of South Carolina. Her research focuses on themes of reproductive justice. She is the author of Others’ Milk and Not Trying: Infertility, Childlessness, and Ambivalence.