Fluid experts: Lactation consultants as postmodern professional specialists

Katherine Carroll, Kerreen Reiger

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Since their accreditation as a professional specialty in 1985, lactation consultants have grown in number and prominence in maternity care. In North America and Australia, breastfeeding management is now a domain increasingly presided over by certified experts. This article explores the way in which this speciality has established a distinctive identity that straddles seemingly contradictory maternalist, and medicalised, discourses. Drawing on professional sources and on a small study of Victorian lactation consultants, it explores the shift from the maternalist imagery characteristic of voluntary breastfeeding support groups, to a more complex message about breastfeeding as a contemporary social practice. We argue that the way in which lactation consultants negotiate complex relationships with peers and clients gives rise to a fluid professional identity. This reflects not only their historical legacy and recent changes in health systems and professional roles, but also a postmodern cultural context, in which women negotiate their embodied identities as mothers, lovers and workers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)101-110
    JournalHealth Sociology Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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