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Transgender and Non-Binary Parents: Infant Feeding, the choice is yours.


This blog is intended to educate readers that there are multiple terms used today for infant feeding. It also highlights the MANY benefits of chestfeeding your infant.



Chestfeeding, what is it?


“The science behind the use of the term chestfeeding is not focused on human anatomy; it is the science of health communication, which requires using terms that are familiar and accepted by those being helped. Language is always evolving, in the breastfeeding and lactation world as elsewhere. Many of the terms used 20 or 30 years ago would be unfamiliar to parents today, and La Leche League must continue to adapt and evolve as language in the lactation area does as well.” - Joint statement from La Leche League Canada and La Leche League USA


There are many different terms that are used to describe the occupation of infant feeding, breastfeeding, nursing, and most recently chestfeeding. Chestfeeding is a term used that describes how parents of all identities feed and nourish their infant. It is most commonly used by the 2SLGBTQA community, since some individuals cannot relate to the term ‘breastfeeding’.


Over the years terms have evolved regarding infant feeding, for example “nursing” and “suckling” were terms used to describe what we now refer to as breastfeeding, and before that “wet nursing” was a well-known infant feeding practice. Furthermore, in the 20th century breastfeeding was viewed as ‘low class’ or ‘uncultured’. As science evolves, so does the many terms we as a society utilize to align with the science.


Chestfeeding is not only about health communication. Chestfeeding is about the science behind human connection. Whether you are a non-binary individual, a Trans feminine, a partner who wants to help his wife or a woman who is not capable of producing milk or lactating, what matters is that you understand the importance of helping your infant feel safe, secure and comfortable.

One of the most important newborn and new caregiver tasks is early feeding. Not only does the task nourish the baby but it also promotes parent-infant bonding, self-regulation skills and early communication skills for the infant.



Skin to skin first begins at birth. It is an innate neurobehavioral response and a very critical period for the maintenance of breastfeeding behavior. This is known as self-attachment, when an infant is left with the birthing parent immediately after birth we can see this process play out naturally. The infant will attempt to find the breast on its own via the “breast crawl” An infant is placed on the birthing parent and he/she will smell the milk, which produces saliva. The infant can see the areola with its limited vision even at birth. Typically takes 30 to 60 minutes for the infant to find the breast/nipple.


Skin to Skin contact improves oxygenation, stabilizes new born temperature, provides access to nutrition and provides infant immunity (AWHONN, 2016; Moorwe et al., 2016; Sharma et al., 2017; Stevens et al., 2017). It elicits and provides caregiving and protective behaviors from the birthing parent (and partners) and it encourages bonding. Skin to skin lowers stress hormones in infants (AWHONN).



The benefits of skin to skin are two fold, both parent(s) and infant receive benefits. The infant benefits include: thermoregulation, cardiopulmonary stabilization, and improved feedings (AWHONN, 2016; Moorwe et al., 2016; Sharma et al., 2017; Stevens et al., 2017). The birthing parent’s benefits of skin to skin include: bonding, confidence, and positive mental health outcomes as it reduces symptoms of depression and reduced stress

(AWHONN, 2016; Moorwe et al., 2016; Sharma et al., 2017; Stevens et al., 2017). Skin to skin benefits with a non-lactating parent will be the similar as above.


It is important to understanding chestfeeding terminology to ensure that inclusivity remains at the heart of our community. It is also important to understand that chestfeeding is not necessarily about the nutrients that an infant is receiving from a lactating parent. Science continues to show us the amazing benefits of human connection and bonding. Using the term that you are comfortable with is what matters for you and we must respect and understand the terms that others are comfortable using. Whether its chestfeeding, breastfeeding, nursing, or suckling the science behind the occupation of feeding an infant backs up the need to normalize that all terms, all identities and all parents can be and should be providing their infant with its natural habitat (skin to skin contact) in the way that they themselves are comfortable and able.


Below is an insert of a trans woman, Jenna, that describes her experience of inducing lactation to help feed her infant taken directly from http://www.milkjunkies.net/ :

Jenna states: “You have to prepare. A trans woman has to prepare for breastfeeding when gestation starts, when the partner or surrogate becomes pregnant. You need to give yourself those nine months. Before pregnancy begins, you have to know about the hormonal protocol and know when you’re going to start it.
And it’s a lot of work. It’s not easy. I don’t want to take away from cisgender women’s experiences, but sometimes for cis women, breastfeeding seems easy. I know that’s not true for all cis women, but for many, milk production is this natural thing that happens without extra effort. For trans women, you have to put in some effort to make it happen.”

You can read more details about Jenna’s experience: http://www.milkjunkies.net/


If you are interested in reading further on this topic please review this resource: https://www.lllc.ca/sites/lllc.ca/files/REVISED-Trans-Nursing_Tip-Sheet.pdf


Family Foundations Therapy strives to remain inclusive.

We are committed to providing our customers a compassionate, client centered and collaborative experience.


We will do this by:

· Recognizing distress and working towards alleviating it

· Empowering clients to cultivate self-compassion, self-love and self-acceptance

·Treating our clients with kindness, while cultivating kindness, recognizing the shared humanity and creating mindfulness to negative aspects of the self

·Using activity as a therapeutic tool

·Assessing the client from a holistic perspective (mind-body-spirit) to allow for efficient and effective problem solving with focused solutions


Working from a place of:

·Altruism (unselfish concern for the welfare of others: actions – commitment, dedication, responsiveness, understanding),

·Equality (all individuals have fundamental rights- day to day interactions of respect for values, beliefs and lifestyles that vary from our own),

·Justice (fairness, equality, truthfulness and objectivity – maintain goal directed and objective relationships)

·Freedom (freedom to pursue their own personal and social goals)

·Dignity (seeing human beings holistically – mind, body, physical and social aspects that create unique and worthy individuals – through building unique attributes and resources a sense of competence and self-worth is developed)

·Truth (faithful to facts and reality – accountable, honest, accurate and authenticity defines our actions and attitudes as a business)

·Prudence (govern and discipline ourselves through the use of reason – we value discretion, vigilance, judiciousness, and make judgements on intelligent reflection and rational thought).


Information gathered from: Core Values and Attitudes of Occupational Therapy Practice (AOTA, 1993).



References:


AWHONN. 2016. Immediate and Sustained Skin-to-Skin Contact for the Healthy Term Newborn After Birth: AWHONN Practice Brief Number 5. Gathered from: https://www.jognn.org/article/S0884-2175(16)30352-5/fulltext


La Leche League Canada, Le Leche League USA. 2018. Joint statement from La Leche League Canada and La Leche League USA gathered from: https://www.lllc.ca/joint-statement-use-term-chestfeeding.


Moore, E. R., Bergman, N., Anderson, G. C., & Medley, N. (2016). Early skin‐to‐skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. The Cochrane Library.


Sharma, D., Sharma, P., & Shastri, S. (2017). Golden 60 minutes of newborn’s life: Part 2: Term neonate. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 30(22), 2728-2733.


Stevens, J., Schmied, V., Burns, E., & Dahlen, H. (2014). Immediate or early skin‐to‐skin contact after a Caesarean section: a review of the literature. Maternal & child nutrition, 10(4), 456-473.


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