Images of Breastfeeding on Instagram: Self-Representation, Publicness, and Privacy Management

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18 Citations (Scopus)


As recent feminist studies have recognized, breastfeeding is an interesting area of investigation since it encompasses several social and cultural issues involving both the private and the public sphere. These range from how motherhood is lived and interpreted, the representation of the body, how children are reared, women’s self-representation, breastfeeding support, and maternal work. The article illustrates a qualitative analysis of a sample of Instagram images tagged with breastfeedingrelated words, with the aim of analyzing how breastfeeding is represented and the relationship between private and public discourses. For this reason, images coming from both mothers and breastfeeding promoters were analyzed. The analysis shows that breastfeeding representation on Instagram confirms, and also goes beyond, the common image of breastfeeding a newborn, showing toddlers’ breastfeeding or mothers pumping breastmilk. It also shows that breastfeeding may be connected with a wider approach to parenthood, based on proximity, and that children are active subjects of the decisions taken. The research indicates that the relationship between public and private discourses is an overlapping of shades. On one hand, research results showed several strategies enacted by parents for protecting their children’s privacy; on the other hand, the functions of images posted veer between fixing a private moment and creating public discourses using specific hashtags aimed, for example, at normalizing public breastfeeding or offering new types of support. Instagram appears, then, as a platform where personal choices and beliefs can flow into public discourse and a place for investigating how public discourses and social and cultural issues (such as breastfeeding promotion and representation) shape the way that breastfeeding is lived.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Instagram, motherhood, social media, breastfeeding, infancy, privacy


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