‘Chestfeeding’: Hospitals Tell Midwives To Change Language To Accommodate Trans Community

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In Great Britain, a group of hospitals has instructed midwives in their maternity departments to use different terms when treating transgender patients in order to be more “gender-inclusive,” substituting “chestfeeding” for “breastfeeding” and replacing “breastmilk” with “human milk” or “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent.”

“Terms like ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘human milk’ are being introduced at an NHS trust in a bid to boost inclusivity,” Bristol Live reports. “Staff have been asked to use gender-neutral language alongside – not instead of – traditional terms to ensure that all groups are represented.”

LBC reported of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust:

The hospital will become the first in the UK to introduce an official gender-inclusive language policy for its maternity services department, which will be rebranded as “perinatal services.” Terms such as “woman” and “father” will also be superseded by “woman or person” and “parent,” “co-parent,” or “second biological parent” respectively.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust explains in its announcement of the changes:

We are on a journey towards gender inclusive care for everybody during pregnancy, birth and afterwards. This journey is led by members of the trans and non-binary community. We are at the beginning of this process, which will continue over the next few years.

Midwives believe pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy parts of life. The midwife’s role is to support a pregnant person’s journey through each stage of pregnancy, birth, and the early days with their new baby. Midwives believe that you know what is best for you and your baby, and will work together with you to ensure your experience of pregnancy and birth is safe and positive.

In a portion titled, “Gender Inclusive Language in Perinatal Services: Mission Statement and Rationale,” the trust notes:

It is within our power as midwives, as obstetricians, and as an organisation to make continual improvements to our services, practices and policies towards the fulfilment of human rights. … This is known as ‘progressive realisation’ and is congruent with NHS guidance which advocates services taking additional steps in order to overcome, and reverse, the effects of previous exclusion or marginalisation on trans and non-binary people. The result is perinatal services that are available, accessible and acceptable to the trans and non-binary community, fulfilling our professional, statutory and ethical responsibility to address health inequalities in marginalised populations. …

For us, a gender-additive approach means using gender-neutral language alongside the language of womanhood, in order to ensure that everyone is represented and included. … It is important to note that the term “women” encompasses both cis and trans women. Professionals should be aware that co-parents could have any gender identity, and could also be cis, trans, non-binary, and/or intersex. … Unless conversation is focused on gender identity with relation to cis, trans or non- binary status, it is not necessary to include the adjectives “cis” or “trans” before the words “woman,” “man,” or “person.”

On a poster titled “Gender Inclusive Perinatal Care,” Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust asks, “What can you do to support trans & non-binary parents?” The poster answers, “Ask ALL service users about their pronouns & offer pronoun stickers to trans & non-binary people,” “offer your own pronouns when introducing yourself,” “get comfortable with ‘They, them, theirs’ pronouns,” “use inclusive language when talking to, or about, groups of people,” “make sure signs and leaflets are gender-inclusive.”

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