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‘Off to the best start’? A multimodal critique of breast and formula feeding health promotional discourse

Brookes, Gavin; Harvey, Kevin; Mullany, Louise


Gavin Brookes


This study critically examines the multimodal discourses of baby-feeding practices in contemporary health promotion in the UK. Comparing two parallel texts from the ongoing Start4life campaign (one dedicated to breastfeeding, the other to bottle/formula feeding), our multimodal critical discourse analysis identifies a series of recurring, multisemiotic strategies through which these texts aim to promote breastfeeding as the most desirable, natural and even morally responsible method of infant nutrition. These discursive strategies, we argue, are underpinned and driven by neoliberal assumptions about infant feeding, health and risk, which fail to take into account the structural constraints that affect the take-up of the ‘ideal’ of breastfeeding, all the while propagating unobtainable and often contradictory notions of total motherhood and familial relations - discursive moves that can have negative consequences for the health and wellbeing of new mothers and their infants.


Brookes, G., Harvey, K., & Mullany, L. (2016). ‘Off to the best start’? A multimodal critique of breast and formula feeding health promotional discourse. Gender and Language, 10(3), 340-363.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 18, 2016
Publication Date Dec 20, 2016
Deposit Date Aug 3, 2017
Publicly Available Date Dec 21, 2018
Journal Gender and Language
Print ISSN 1747-6321
Electronic ISSN 1747-633X
Publisher Equinox Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 3
Pages 340-363
Keywords Infant nutrition, Breastfeeding, Motherhood, Neoliberalism, health promotion, Multimodal critical discourse analysis
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