Families logo

Rebranding World Breastfeeding Week

by Say Yes to Nourish 6 days ago in values
Report Story

It needs an upgrade (desperately)

Rebranding World Breastfeeding Week
Photo by Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash

August 1st to 7th is World Breastfeeding Week, but I have a bit of a bone to pick with it. I think it is in desperate need of a rebrand. An image upgrade, if you will.

I propose we rename WBW as World Lactation Week.

I hope we can all agree that infants deserve the highest quality of nutrition as part of their development. And I hope we see how critical support to help them and their families access that is. The saying, “it takes a village” is the cold hard truth when it comes to feeding (and caring for) tiny humans.

So here’s the thing. Breastfeeding is only one of the ways that infants can receive nutrition – while research shows that this method of feeding meets their needs to the highest capacity, it’s not a secret that all infants are not breastfed. There’s a multitude of reasons why, including personal choice to not breastfeed, poor access to pumping areas in the workplace, lack of parental leave, social stigma of breastfeeding and poor support from social circles, and limited education available to providers in preparing their patients and clients for parenthood and lactation. Maybe in another world where these weren’t issues, breastfeeding would be easy and everybody would do it. Maybe then calling it WBW would be the best term for it.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Let’s consider the following.

Breastfeeding itself is a time and energy-intensive practice. It is not free despite common marketing and pressure from external sources that it is easy to do and avoids purchasing equipment and products. It is only free if you exploit the time, care and energy of those who breastfeed. And many products are still required for it, including pumping equipment, care products should infection or pain occur with feeding, and supportive garments for nursing parents. Some nursing parents may still require supplementation via donor milk or formula if their infant has medical needs related to growth and development.

Formula feeding is another valid way for infants to be fed. When a lactating parent chooses not to nurse, to not continue nursing, or to supplement their nursing with additional nutrition, formula is convenient and important to have access to. Most formulas are developed to meet the needs of infants as fully as possible, and may provide progressions as an infant grows to continue meeting their needs. Formula access is an issue that we unfortunately still have to reckon with in today’s day and age, and by focusing solely on breastfeeding as mode of nutrition, we leave these parents and babies to struggle in the dust.

Some families may choose to engage in or receive breastmilk donation – this is also a valid way to feed a baby and takes lots of work. If a new parent is unable to lactate and chooses not to use formula, accessing these programs helps them feed their baby in their best capacity. We don’t talk enough about the limits that these programs have, or how people can get involved with breastmilk donation.

If an infant is lost shortly after birth, a new parent may still undergo the process of lactating – to my knowledge, there is no way to stop a parent’s body from producing milk throughout a pregnancy and the transition of producing milk with no baby to feed I can only imagine to be devastating and traumatic. A body process that occurs so naturally and yet is so painful to experience because it is a reminder of loss. These families deserve trauma-informed care to help them grieve the loss of their infant and make the best decisions for them in terms of lactation – while it might seem simple, not all of these parents will donate their milk and that’s okay.

Foster and adoptive families also have to make decisions around feeding an infant. Some of them who have had previous children may decide to undergo the process of relactation to produce their own milk for the infant, and others may need to access either donation or formula. This can be incredibly challenging if there are legal constraints in a foster relationship or if the adoption process takes longer than expected. We need more support for these families in choosing to feed their children in whatever way works best for them.

And we absolutely cannot forget trans parents. Not all bodies that carry pregnancies, undergo labour and lactate are women – the transphobia that exists in some training practices for doula care, lactation consulting and overall medical systems is disgusting. To call it breastfeeding alone even feels strange, instead of a more neutral term such as chest-feeding, lactating or nursing. In similar ways that lactating after loss can involve a sense of grief, the process of lactation may trigger gender dysphoria for some individuals and impact the postpartum period in terms of mental and physical health. We need better training for healthcare providers, and more conversation in the public, around supporting trans parents through lactating in whatever capacity suits them. This includes gender-affirming pregnancy and postpartum care, access to infant nutrition options across the spectrum, and social supports.

So to sum up a mountain of thoughts I have about lactation, I think we need to start calling it World Lactation Week. Thoughts?

Note: We don’t engage with or entertain TERF content here. Trans bodies are good bodies, and making terms more inclusive does not take away the identity of others.


About the author

Say Yes to Nourish

I help people with periods navigate menstrual health education & wellness with a healthy serving of sass (and not an ounce of nutrition pseudoscience).

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  1. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

Add your insights

Comments (3)

Sign in to comment
  • Natalie Wilkinson5 days ago

    I agree with you that the week deserves more attention and that mothers deserve more support and resources. Thank you for writing about this.

  • Call Me Les5 days ago

    You took great care to be inclusive with your language and phrasing and it shows. I do the same and greatly admire seeing it in others. Thank you for writing this piece!

  • blight6 days ago

    I appreciated this piece and would definitely advocate for World Lactation Week or World Chest-feeding Week. There are strong considerations of the intersectionality of chest feeding and how it affects different populations present here. Overall very intentional and a job well done! Thank you for this.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.