The medicalization of maternity in Italy : fascism and breastfeeding in an Apennine community / by Elizabeth Dixon Whitaker.
Biocultural and historical approaches in anthropology are united to examine infant care practices in Italy since Unification in the 1860s to explain why mothers follow the regimented and medicalized breastfeeding methods introduced during the fascist period. Beginning in the 1920s, the fascists attempted to influence fertility and infant mortality rates through the medicalization of maternity by increasing political and medical authority in reproduction and infant care. In their attempts to control maternal behavior, breastfeeding became a central symbol of biological politics, uniting demographic aims with an opposition to feminism and materialist individualism. Medicalized breastfeeding appealed to tradition while expressing an ideology of progress, as it does today. Ironically, the methods of double-weighing infants at precisely-scheduled meals and eliminating night feeding interfere with the biology of breastfeeding and reduce its duration, contradicting the fascist goal of universal breastfeeding for one year. This paradox is examined in terms of the demographic, cultural, social, and economic transformations of the past several generations. The care of mothers and infants has been separated through dramatic changes in health beliefs and understandings of the relationship between individuals and medical and state authorities. Parents' reliance on family and other traditional authorities has increasingly been replaced by dependence on experts for advice on reproduction and childrearing, leading to high compliance with medical norms for infant care.
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