PolitiFact Defends 'Chestfeeding' For 'Transgender and Nonbinary Dads'

July 29th, 2023 12:27 PM

Grace Abels, “a staff writer focused on LGBTQ issues,” for PolitiFact came out with an explainer piece on Friday that sought to defend the practice of “chestfeeding” for “people who identify as men or as nonbinary.” Seriously, this is a fact-checking outlet.

Naturally, the piece originated due to the fact that “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has frequently faced political criticism. But a new wave hit in early July over breastfeeding — or ‘chestfeeding,’ as the agency described it on a website.”

After referencing a couple of tweets, Abels also mentioned “U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a former OB-GYN, condemned the CDC’s language and expressed concern over medications that may be taken to induce lactation.”

Abels then stepped in to attempt to save the day, “Some of the claims misrepresented what chestfeeding is, how the term is used and raised fears over medications involved in induced lactation.”

Seeking to explain, Abels nonsensically wrote:

Chestfeeding is a gender-neutral term used by some transgender and nonbinary dads when nursing their newborns.

Most people who are assigned female at birth, including people who identify as men or as nonbinary, can get pregnant and have children. Trans men may have to stop taking testosterone to conceive, and are instructed to stay off hormones during pregnancy.

As for the avoidance of the term “breastfeeding,” Abels added “The term may cause gender dysphoria, which can exacerbate mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, trans men who have had ‘top surgery’ may not have breasts.”

Abels also cited Dr. Case Rosen-Carole, the “chief of the Division of Breastfeeding & Lactation Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine,” to give credence to the idea, “Rosen-Carole cited research that mammary tissue in transgender women who have taken hormones can be ‘as well organized for milk production as someone who was assigned female at birth.’"

But, is it safe? Rosen-Carole said it was, but “Marshall, the Kansas senator, said he was concerned about the prolactin-promoting medications used to induce lactation and their effect on infants: ‘The CDC is encouraging these individuals to use Domperidone, a risky drug not legally approved or sold in the U.S.’”

The CDC told PolitiFact that it “did not endorse using drugs to induce lactation,” but Abels added the caveat, “The CDC notes that families may need help from healthcare providers with medication that can be used to induce lactation.” 

Ironically, exactly one paragraph prior to the one on Marshall’s concern, Abels cites a study showing that, in Rosen-Carole’s words, "milk is nutritionally adequate and co-equal to milk produced by cis-gender women based on macronutrient analysis," but what was left unsaid was that this study was managed “Through modification of exogenous hormone therapy, use of domperidone as a galactogogue, breast pumping, and ultimately direct breastfeeding.”

Abels also notes that metoclopramide is approved by the FDA, “but has shown mixed success at promoting and inducing lactation and can have side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, depression and anxiety…  Experts and online resources say metoclopramide has not been tied to health complications in infants.”

In his longer statement, Marshall also warned that research was scarce on the issue, something Abels was forced to concede was true, “Generally, research on induced lactation is scant even for cisgender women, said Rosen-Carole, and it is especially sparse for the trans population.”

Nevertheless, the piece concluded with a warning from Rosen-Carole, ‘“People are less likely to reach their (breastfeeding) goals if they don't have social support, if they have a history of trauma, if they're low income, or if they have other medical complications,’ Rosen-Carole said. ‘We know that the LGBTQIA community is at higher risk of all those things.’” 

Not only did PolitiFact go to bat for the absurdist notion that men can get pregnant and that “breastfeeding” can be a problematic word, but its entire premise that “chestfeeding” is just as good as breastfeeding required that the reader not click on the link to see that Republican senator was correct to be worried.