CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — There is a new push by some health care professionals to change the term “breast milk” to “chest milk.”
In the United Kingdom, one hospital made international headlines for changing the term “breast milk” to “human milk.” It’s an effort to be more inclusive to transgender and non-binary parents.
Illinois mother Jill Aspinwall says she wanted to provide the best nutrients possible for her three children, but admits she struggled to breastfeed and was often shamed for doing so.
“I’ve had dirty looks. I’ve had comments and I’m just letting it go,” said Aspinwall. “I am feeding my baby and providing the best nutrition possible. Some people were intolerant to breastfeeding in public — especially not covering up. But once a baby is a few months old they bat off that blanket and they want to see what’s going on.”
After her first experience with nursing her daughter, she decided to help others. So she became an internationally board-certified lactation consultant in 2015. Then she opened her own lactation service, “After Hours Breastfeeding Support.”
Now she teaches parents how to naturally feed their child. Recently, Aspinwall implemented terminology changes at her practice.
“I think that we can speak to people in general terms until we get to know that client individually and then when we know what pronouns they would like to use and to be addressed as then we can address them as such,” said Aspinwall.
She says she started to use the terms chest milk or human milk, instead of the traditional term. She says it’s a way to create a more comfortable atmosphere for transgender parents as well as non-binary parents — who do not identify with any gender.
“We’re transitioning now to use chest milk just to be more inclusive of all populations and that term is probably going to be changed in the near future,” said Aspinwall.
Medically, it is possible for transgender men and non-binary people to have a baby. Aspinwall says the term chest milk, human milk, and chest feeding make gender minorities feel more comfortable and open to the process.
“There are all different types of families and I think that the most important thing is that every type of family knows that breast milk is not just for any particular baby,” she explained.
But not all organizations or hospitals are following suit. Dr. Cecilia Banga specializes in delivering babies and prenatal care.
“This [term] is not really a pervasive topic of discussion here in the United States,” said Banga.
She says breast tissue itself is not specific to one gender.
“I think it’s important to note that regardless of the origin. It’s very important for infants to get milk that comes from humans. Depending on what we want to call it, breast milk, chest milk, human milk. That depends on the patient and what they are comfortable with. It doesn’t change the fact that the milk is coming from humans and that it’s coming from the breast,” said Banga.
The North Carolina doctor says that despite the term, milk itself is an essential necessity to babies’ health.
“Breast milk is a huge first step towards a baby developing a strong immune system because it is chock full of multiple nutrients,” said Banga.
Regardless of the term, both experts say it’s a person’s choice to decide what they want to call it and gender inclusion does not mean exclusion for any other patients.
They recommend patients tell their doctor or lactation expert which pronouns they prefer and the terms they are most comfortable with as they go through the process.