Chestfeeding: Cosmo Reports from New Trans Frontier

It’s back to school time, so here’s your new vocab word from the PC lexicon: “chestfeeding.”

What? You’ve never even heard of it? Well, Cosmo’s Kathryn Lindsay is willing to give you a pass. “If it's new to you,” she wrote in an August 24 article, “that's understandable — it's not something typically talked about in mainstream pregnancy circles.”

Following a recent study funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), chestfeeding — or gender neutral feeding of babies from whatever you’ve got up there — is now on the liberal media’s radar. An Atlantic article by Britni de la Cretaz got the ball rolling, and soon Cosmo picked it up too.  

Lindsay began her article with the story of Trevor MacDonald, who “just wants to be the best dad possible for his son.” Yet, when it came to breastfeeding, the parent had a problem. As a trans man, MacDonald’s breasts had been removed.

Despite what you might think, post-surgical chestfeeding is possible, although milk levels are likely to be lower. “The bigger obstacle,” Lindsay opined, “is the heteronormative medical system.”

MacDonald realized this after reaching out to the medical community for support. As it turns out, obstetricians were not very “inclusive of the practice.”

Reporting on the CIHR study, de la Cretaz wrote that “doctors sometimes contributed to feelings of dysphoria by referring to [participants] with female pronouns.” Additionally, no surgeons had discussed the possibility of chestfeeding with patients before performing “top” surgery. Masculine clothing was also difficult to find.

Besides these insensitivities, the very act of suckling “can lead to complicated feelings about … gender.” Lindsay mentioned the strong “clash of feeling” that some participants felt by presenting as a male, but engaging in an act that has been considered a solely feminine act. Engagement in chestfeeding can throw these people “back into a world of uncertainty, which takes a toll,” the Cosmo writer explained. 

But Dr. Deena Blanchard of Premier Pediatrics understands. According to Lindsay, she believes that we should “work on expanding our definition of breastfeeding so it covers every type of family and opportunity.” 

So that’s chestfeeding. Stay tuned for your next vocab lesson — it will probably come sooner than you think. 

Earlier: Media hype Canadian "man" starting breast-feeding blog 

Sarah Stites
Sarah Stites
Sarah Stites is a writer and research analyst for MRC Culture.