Home Lifestyle Breaking gender boundaries: ‘Chest-feeding’, the new era of gender-inclusive baby feeding

Breaking gender boundaries: ‘Chest-feeding’, the new era of gender-inclusive baby feeding

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As society’s understanding of gender diversity evolves, so too does the concept of ‘chest-feeding’.

A woman sitting on a lawn breast-feeds a baby.
Using the term ‘chest-feeding’ instead of ‘breast-feeding’ is a way to honour and respect gender identity. Picture: Anna Shvets /Pexels.

IN A world that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, there is no better time to recognise the beautiful act of baby feeding.

This practice knows no boundaries when it comes to gender. It’s a language of love that connects not only mothers and their children but also partners in parenting.

Experts believe that breast-feeding goes beyond just providing vital nutrients to newborns; it creates a nurturing space where love, care and bonding thrive.

Inclusivity is not just about breaking stereotypes as it also allows for parents to feel empowered. Gender-inclusive parenting also encourages open conversations, because everyone can benefit from a little help on this life-changing journey.

And as society’s understanding of gender diversity evolves, so too does the concept of “chest-feeding”. It acknowledges that individuals of various gender identities, including transgender men, non-binary individuals, and gender-queer individuals, can also produce or provide milk.

“Men are (partially) able to breast-feed/chest-feed. A man can use a supplemental nursing system while chest-feeding. Donor milk could be an option,” notes the La Leche League UK on its website.

While breast-feeding has traditionally been associated with women due to their ability to give birth and lactate, “chest-feeding” highlights that gender isn’t solely determined by biology.

Using the term “chest-feeding” instead of “breast-feeding” is a way to honour and respect their gender identity.

To help all parents, regardless of gender, here are some baby-feeding tips from Philips Mother & Child Care Category Lead META:

Frequent nursing and responsive feeding

Newborns have small stomachs and need to be fed frequently, especially in the early days. Respond promptly to hunger cues, such as rooting or sucking motions.

Electric breast pumps can be used to fill bottles, allowing both parents and guardians to actively participate in feeding and bonding.

Find a comfortable position

Experiment with different breast-feeding positions to find what works best for you and your baby. A comfortable position ensures both of you are relaxed and can enjoy a positive feeding experience.

Take care of yourself

Remember that taking care of your own well-being is vital. Stay hydrated, eat nutritious meals, and get enough rest. Self-care helps ensure you have the energy and resources to care for your baby

Pay attention to cues

Babies have their own pace and preferences. Pay attention to their cues and don’t force feedings if they’re not hungry. Use this time as an opportunity for interaction, eye contact and bonding.

Support

In this digital age, expectant parents have access to valuable resources. Platforms like MomConnect, a programme by the South African National Department of Health, provide pregnant and post-partum women with health information and a help desk for queries.

Additionally, the “Road to Health” book offers advice for first-time parents while tracking their child’s growth and development.

Philips Pregnancy+ app serves as an additional resource for expectant parents, providing information, support and tools to help them navigate the exciting and sometimes challenging journey of pregnancy and beyond.

“Nurturing is a privilege, not a job,” wrote Khuliso Mapila, Mother & Child Care Category Lead META at Philips. She also urged parents to do what they feel is best for them and their child.

“We have items to help them along the way.”

Mapila added that as traditional barriers are broken down, it is important to remember that the “pleasant journey of gender-inclusive nursing reminds us that motherhood is a shared adventure”.

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