Accepted Paper:

'Multitasking breastfeeding mammas': moral constructions of the 'good mother' in Indonesian health promotion discourses  


Belinda Spagnoletti (University of Melbourne)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper analyses contemporary health promotion discourses in Indonesia which construct breastfeeding as the “right” of all babies and as a moral imperative for “good” mothers. It explores the gaps between these moralizing discourses and the complex realities of motherhood in urban Yogyakarta.

Paper long abstract:

Exclusive breastfeeding is now embedded in Indonesian national law (Health Law 36/2009) and regulation (PP 33/2012), which assert that each child has the "right" to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. Over the past 5 years the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding has burgeoned within government, private and non-government organizations. These health promotion discourses emphasize that to be a "good" mother women are morally obliged to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months.

Mothers are told that, with a combination of spousal support, dedication and self-confidence, they can "have it all" - returning to work after maternity leave while expressing breast milk at their workplace. Thus the "multitasking breastfeeding mamma" can be a reality. Fathers are encouraged to support exclusive breastfeeding, not only for the benefits to child health, but also to assist their wives in gaining their pre-pregnancy figures sooner. New mothers are advised that breastfeeding can make them better mothers and more attractive wives, perpetuating long-held notions of female self-sacrifice as constituting ideal femininity. Health promotion discourses often treat the needs and interests of mothers and their children as distinct from one another. What is good for baby may not always be possible or good for a mother. Thus a maternal-child conflict is understood as implicit in a mother's "failure" to breastfeed. This paper explores how these highly moralized messages are internalized and embodied by mothers, highlighting the gaps between health promotion discourses and the complex realities of motherhood in urban Yogyakarta.

Panel Hier03
Contestations of gender, sexuality and morality in contemporary Indonesia