Deliberation of the Scientific Evidence for Breastfeeding: Online Comments as Social Representations

María E. Len-Ríos, Manu Bhandari, Yulia S. Medvedeva

This mixed-methods study examines online comments (The Atlantic online, N = 326; NYTimes.com, N = 596) generated by two widely read articles challenging the scientific basis for U.S. government breastfeeding recommendations. The analysis focuses on commenter evaluations of the scientific evidence for breastfeeding. Results demonstrate that commenters socially represented breastfeeding science as a means for manufacturing convenience and also as a process that is prone to flaws in its production and application. Online commenters discussed their personal experiences (42%) with breastfeeding more than its evidence base (16%). Personal and social experiences were used as filters to judge the merits of scientific arguments.

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