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November 1, 2022


November 1, 2022

What Is Chestfeeding?

Chestfeeding is frequently used by transgender or nonbinary people to describe feeding your baby milk from your body. Find out more here.

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Image courtesy of Father's Nursing Assistant via Motherly

Chestfeeding is a term that is used to describe the act of feeding a baby milk from your chest. Since the term "breastfeeding" may not be inclusive to everyone. Chestfeeding is a more gender-neutral term and is much more inclusive. Although chestfeeding (also called bodyfeeding) can be used by anyone, this term is often used by transgender or non-binary people.

All individuals, regardless of their gender assigned at birth, have mammary glands and the hormones needed to produce milk. Depending on the individual, they may need hormones or other support to produce milk. One or both parents may decide to chestfeed the baby. While it may be easier for the birth parent to chest feed, there are options to make it possible for one or both parents to feed the baby either with their own milk production, donated milk, or formula. Chestfeeding can mean feeding the baby from the nipple or using a tube.

A quick definition

Chestfeeding is when a baby is fed with milk produced by a human or allows the baby to suckle and feed on the nipple using a tube. In the case of transgender men, even if they have had surgery to remove or alter breast tissue (typically called top surgery), they can still produce milk. In other circumstances, the person can potentially take hormones to help produce milk, such as transgender women.

Chestfeeding can also refer to feeding the infant with milk from a tube attached to the chest. The milk can be donated or from the partner's human milk. There is always the option of feeding formula through the tube, which brings many other benefits even though human milk isn't utilized. Parents that chestfeed have additional bonding and other benefits recognized for both parent and baby.

Why it's important

Chestfeeding is important for so many reasons. Regardless of the method used (human lactation, tube feeding), the connection between the parent and infant is bonded even more. If human milk is used, the baby receives that benefit as well. Besides nutrition, the baby's sucking reflex develops, and the connection may help with sleep and pain relief. If both parents are chestfeeding, the number of feedings per parent decreases, and this can be helpful with sleep and other overall family dynamics.

The parent(s) are assisted with chestfeeding as well. Typically, this term is utilized for parent(s) in the LGBTQ+ community, and these individuals face challenges throughout the healthcare process. Becoming parents isn't always easy for members of the community, and lactation consultants and other healthcare providers aren't always open or educated in this area to provide the correct guidance. These parents must work harder to provide great experiences for their child, and recognizing the desire and need for a parent/parents to offer this to their child should be considered and encouraged. Societal expectations make it even harder for individuals to discuss chestfeeding when society already deems it uncomfortable. Using proper and comfortable terminology is helpful with comfort and guidance, not to mention respect.

Who might use this term?

The term chestfeeding can be utilized by anyone, and it is not reserved for transgender or non-binary parents. This term (or bodyfeeding) is more inclusive as individuals that choose to feed their child this way may not have breasts as is known traditionally to be comfortable utilizing the term breastfeeding. Healthcare workers or others that assist through the birthing process and aftercare should be open to following the parents' lead and use this term if they are most comfortable. In some cases, both parents may choose to lactate and feed the baby or utilize other resources such as tube feeding to chestfeed their baby. 

Does it Involve lactation?

While lactation may be a part of chestfeeding, it is possible to utilize a tube attached to the nipple to feed the baby. This technique is used in breastfeeding by lactation consultants when the parent struggles with milk production. The formula is attached to a tube; milk production can increase while the baby suckles and takes in the formula. The baby and parent are still getting the benefits. The parent and the baby will benefit regardless if lactation occurs. The most common situation where lactation occurs is in the case of transgender men that give birth, regardless of if they have had much of their breast tissue removed. However, other individuals may choose to take hormones to lactate to feed their baby. Milk can also be purchased from a milk bank and may sometimes be covered by insurance. Milk from milk banks has been pasteurized and tested for diseases. If donor milk is used, the parent(s) must do their research, as donor milk comes from other mothers who may have extra milk and hasn't been tested. It's essential to research the mother's health status and medications before using donor milk.

Find the best resources with Anja Health

Anja Health is a leader in healthcare resources. If you are looking for a partner to guide you through choices through pregnancy and beyond, Anja Health can provide education and knowledge. Banking stem cells from pregnancy is the focus of Anja Health. Still, our overall belief is that everyone deserves quality healthcare and resources. Utilize Anja Health for information and discover ways to keep your family healthy in years to come.

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