What the heck is chestfeeding and how is it different than breastfeeding?


Have you heard the term “chestfeeding” yet? Curious what it is?

It’s safe to say that everyone knows what you mean when you talk about “breastfeeding.”  The word tends to bring an image to mind, doesn’t it?  A lovely, feminine looking mother with perfect hair and a gentle smile looking down into the eyes of a blissfully breastfeeding baby… nothing new here.  Probably something close to this painting, with changes in skin tone or the number of babies you can see eating. 

 Or clothing.  

Or a lack of visible halos.

virgin mary breastfeeding chestfeeding nursing

When I say “nursing”, odds are the picture in your head is more or less the same as above.  Well, either that or this one…


but considering you’re reading this blog, I’d imagine that you use “breastfeeding” and “nursing” interchangeably.

So. What comes to mind for you when I say “chestfeeding”?

what is chestfeeding?

Here’s the thing.

Women aren’t the only ones who can nurse babies.

Men can lactate.  A breast is a breast.

It’s rare in our society for men to “breastfeed”, but some men do.  And this doesn’t just apply to cisgender men (the term cisgender means “a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex”); it also applies to transgender men (and just in case you’re not aware, transgender means “a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender”).

Yes, transgender people nurse their babiesTrans men do it, trans women do it.

For some trans men, the term “breastfeeding” is unsettling because they have dealt with gender dysphoria and the use of the word “breasts” can cause them to feel uncomfortable, or even extremely depressed.

For some folks, the term “chestfeeding” feels better, and fits better than breastfeeding.  That’s fine by me!

I choose to use the terms nursing, breastfeeding AND chestfeeding in my lactation practice because it is imperative to me that ALL nursing parents feel supported and validated.  It’s important to me to use inclusive language whenever I can.  I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So when you see the term “chestfeeding” from here on out, I hope you’ve created a mental image of a lovely, masculine or feminine looking parent looking lovingly into their baby’s eyes as that baby nurses.

Are you interested in hearing firsthand from a father who lovingly chestfed his two children? If so, I highly recommend the book Where’s the Mother?: Stories from a Transgender Dad!

originally posted 12/7/2015




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4 thoughts on “What the heck is chestfeeding and how is it different than breastfeeding?

  1. I came to this site while researching ‘chest feeding’ and wow that link turned things upside down for me. I’d heard before that both male and females could induce lactation even though they hadn’t given birth to the child but his link gave so many more interesting examples. Thanks for sharing.

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