Tag Archives: language

Troubling phrase of the day: “Breastfeeding”

5 Apr

This has nothing to do with the actual act of breastfeeding. I’m a loud and proud breastfeeder, 9 months and counting. I’m not committed to child-led weaning, but I am happy to go on nursing past a year and have absolutely no problem with anyone breastfeeding her child for as long as either she or the child wants. Comments like “You’re going to have to wean her once she gets teeth,”* or “If they can ask for it, they’re too old” make me roll my eyes so hard that I fear they’ll get stuck in the back of my head some day.

But I haaaaate the word “breastfeeding.” Why? The word “breast.” I’m no prude, I just don’t understand why we can’t just call it “feeding” or, my preferred word, “nursing.” (“Nursing” gets at all those lovely non-nutritive reasons to, you know, nurse.) Notice that no one ever says, “Excuse me while I go bottle-feed my baby,” and certainly no one ever says, “It’s fine with me if you want to bottle-feed your baby.” Adding the word “breast” just drives home the singularity of the act: breastfeeding in our culture is non-normative to the extent that it has to be specified.

So, you’ll know the breastfeeders have won when we can all stop using that stupid word.

*Yeah, tell that one to the little teething shark-baby I am currently nursing.