Bioethics Blogs

Bracketing time: nourishment beyond ‘the first thousand days’ by Carina Truyts

[1000 days]

of focus and intense care in order to ‘secure’ infants’ future health,

[6 months]

of exclusive breastfeeding.

These brackets of time demarcate periods of intense focus and intervention that aim at mitigating loss and securing potential. As Michelle Pentecost writes in the introduction to this series, this impetus draws on new research in epigenetics, neuroscience and DOHaD (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease), and operates on notions of best practice that sketch the contours of ‘good mothering’. I track this discourse in relation to everyday lived experience in a small Cape Winelands[1] town that is characterised by stark inequality and seasonal precariousness. My research (as part of the First Thousand Days Research group at the University of Cape Town) commenced at a soup kitchen during ‘the hungry season’. There I met Jenna Arendse, one member of a constellation of networks considered in relation to the imaginary of the mother-child dyad in the first thousand days. I asked how nourishment was constituted, enabled and hindered.

A working definition of nourishment[2] is grounded in everyday lived experience and registers care that is affective, and not exclusively evidenced in material forms. Nourishment as practice augments life, is context-specific. It arises within social networks of care, embodying systemic configurations of power and circulating societal norms. Nourishment is nurture that may not be stable, but seeks to produce and reproduce local ideas of good. While nourishment is not fixed solely on food, attention to ingestion (ubiquitous and centred on taste and body) highlights its forms. Thus, my research considered ingestion in the everyday, foregrounding the socio-materiality of food[3].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.