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The construction and navigation of riskscapes in public health advice and mothers' accounts of weaning

Journal article
Authors Maria Fuentes
Helene Brembeck
Published in Health Risk & Society
Volume 21
Issue 5-6
Pages 227-245
ISSN 1369-8575
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for Consumer Science
Pages 227-245
Language en
Keywords risk, riskscape, mothering, weaning, public health, risk, experiences, baby, age, territory, identity, Public, Environmental & Occupational Health, Biomedical Social Sciences
Subject categories Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


This paper adds to critical studies of risk and mothering by illustrating and conceptualising how risk is constructed in public health advice and mothers' accounts of weaning. Previous research points towards a gap between public health scientific definitions of risk and mothers' contextual understandings and experience of handling complex and often conflicting risks linked to food and feeding. It has been suggested that public health discourse misses out on or even silences risks defined by women in their everyday care practices. Therefore, our aim is to conceptualise and map various co-existing constructions of risk and discuss how an awareness of the multiplicity of risk can inform public health advice that take mothers' point of view into account. Using the concept 'riskscape', we explore and compare how public health and mothers' constructions of risk diverge and overlap. Our findings illustrate how mothers belong to a community of practice where weaning is understood and practiced in relation to their everyday life and eating practices involving multiple concerns that are not addressed in public health advice, especially the wider food and information landscape. The study also indicate that this divergence can provoke feelings of insecurity and anxiety among mothers and make public health advice seem less relevant. In sum, our findings suggest a need for public health to acknowledge mothers' experience of weaning as a compound practice similar to their own eating practices and to widen the present focus on risk as a domestic and individual responsibility.

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