In many cultures, breasts are predominantly associated with sexual connotations. The image of breasts is considered taboo and religiously sensitive in many countries including in a Muslim dominated country like Malaysia. As a result, this has affected the ways in which the Malaysian media produce breastfeeding stories.
My PhD research looks into the production, content and audience reception of breastfeeding in the media and explores how each part of the circuit of mass communication contributes to the cultural representation of, and understandings about, breastfeeding.
The first stage of my research involves in-depth interviews with selected news sources and an editor of a local parenting magazine. In this part of my research, I explore the issues and challenges faced by the news sources, as well as the production issues faced by the media.
The second part of my research examines media content, in both the general and specialists media. This includes analysis of representations of formula feeding too so as to provide a rich contextual comparison between the representations and coverage given to both methods of infant feeding.
Finally, my research examines how infant-feeding stories in the media affect audience (particularly women) and how audience negotiate the meanings surrounding breastfeeding in the media. This is accomplished by organising focus groups with selected groups of women, and by observing and conducting interactive discussions with online breastfeeding/formula feeding communities.