PC hospital tells midwives to say ‘chestfeeding’ and ‘human milk’

Feb 11, 2021
A new trans-friendly language policy at a hospital trust in the United Kingdom has ignited debate online. Source: Getty.

Midwives have been told to stop using terms like “mothers”, “breastfeeding” and “maternal” when working with “pregnant people” as part of a new trans-friendly language policy at a hospital trust in the United Kingdom, but the decision has already been met with a raft of angry commenters who think the change is ridiculous.

According to The Mirror, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust is the first in the country to formally implement a gender inclusive language policy for its perinatal services department.

Under the new changes staff have been told to avoid using the word “mother/s” on its own and have been asked to say “mother/s or birthing parent/s” or “mothers and birthing parents” instead. Other changes include replacing the word breastfeeding with “breast/chestfeeding” and replacing breastmilk with “human milk”, “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”. And instead of saying her or she, midwives are expected to use them, their and they.

Saying the word maternal on its own is also a big no-no, and midwives have been asked to replace the term with the phrase “maternal and parental”.

“Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality,” the hospital trust said in a policy document, released this week. “We are consciously using the words ‘women’ and ‘people’ together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all those who use our services.

“As midwives and birth workers, we focus on improving access and health outcomes for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Women are frequently disadvantaged in healthcare, as are trans and non-binary people … By continuing to use the term ‘woman’ we commit to working on addressing health inequalities for all who use our services.”

The language changes have already sparked a fierce debate online, with the majority of commenters saying it’s only going to cause stress and confusion.

“Going too far guys, just going too far,” one person wrote on Facebook. “Babies will always be babies, women will always have the babies and milk will always be milk from the breast if that is where it comes from, unless it is out of a tin. Stop being so sensitive.”

Another said: “Being called ‘mummy’ for the first time by the midwife was amazing after my son was born.”

Others seemed confused, with one writing: “It comes out of a breast and it’s milk … breastmilk, case closed.” Some commenters even made the point of that men also have breasts, so they couldn’t see the problem with the terms “breastmilk” and “breastfeed”.

“But men have breasts,” one wrote. “Men get breast cancer.” Another added: “But men can also sadly get breast cancer, and that is exactly what they call it. It is breast tissue. Women may have more of it, but it is still breast tissue. Chest milk, along with the rest of them, is just absolutely ridiculous.”

While another suggested: “Why not use those terms for trans and non-binary patients and use the terms breastfeeding and woman for everyone else?”

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