Measuring Mamma's Milk: Fascism and the Medicalization of Maternity in Italy

TitleMeasuring Mamma's Milk: Fascism and the Medicalization of Maternity in Italy
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsWhitaker, Elizabeth Dixon
Number of Pages358
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
CityAnn Arbor

In Italy as in other Western societies, the medicalization of basic biological functions contributes to the loss of personal confidence in the care of the body. This volume analyzes the medicalization of maternity through a study of breastfeeding practices over a century of changes in socioeconomic organization, family life, and health beliefs. During the pivotal interwar period in Italy, fascism changed the relationship between the state and the public and greatly tightened the state's ties with medicine and science. "Rationalized" breastfeeding was at the heart of programs to reduce infant mortality rates in order to increase the size and "quality" of the population. Highly regimented feeding schedules, still practiced today, came to represent both an eternal, natural function and the conquest of fatal maternal ignorance by modern science. They also had important consequences for fertility and for maternal and child health. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the author shows how fascism went beneath the surface to have a lasting impact on cultural beliefs and behaviors. 

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