Private Acts of Consumption, Public Displays of Motherhood
An award-winning honours thesis investigating how social networks affect infant feeding practices of first-time mothers and how these social networks create tension for mothers in crafting their identity as a “good mother”.
The experience of first-time motherhood is a social one. Particularly, feeding the infant is a significant social facet to mothering as social networks inform feeding practices and transform seemingly private market interactions, like buying a baby food product, into public acts that are evaluated by other mothers. How do social networks affect infant feeding practices of first-time mothers? How do these social networks create tension for mothers in crafting their identity as a “good mother”? This analysis draws upon four semi-structured in-depth interviews with first-time mothers who have children ranging from four-and-a-half to eleven-and-a-half months of age in Vancouver, BC. These first-time mothers enact feeding practices to protect their children from the dangers of chemicals. They train their infants to become inclusive, urban eaters to avoid raising the “picky eater” and establish family rituals of eating together. Notably, social networks of other mothers are helpful resources when feeding the child, but they can also be sources of judgement and peer pressure. Thus, the private activity of feeding the child transforms into a public act subject to judgement that can internalize “mom guilt”. This study highlights the force of social networks during early motherhood and their ability to transform private acts of consumption into public displays of mothering.
Keywords: motherhood, feeding, consumption, social networks