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Women and trans people alike often share a struggle to breastfeed their newborns, according to a motherhood advocacy organization, which has recently chosen to invite any mom, including those who did not give birth, into their support groups.
The move has ignited controversy, with one British critic saying the global group, La Leche League, has “lost its focus on the mother and baby.”
Founded by a group of American moms in 1956, LLL has extended its branches across 89 countries, according to their website, with hundreds of active meeting groups across the US alone, each of which is lead by a local “leader.”
Recently, the league’s UK branch, LLLGB, made a statement in regards to trans women and men, writing that the group aims to be more “inclusive.” The league extended support to transgender men, who were born with female anatomy but currently identify as male, as well as non-binary parents.
“Trans men, trans women and non-binary individuals may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their babies,” they write. “You do not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed, as we can also see in the experiences of those nursing adopted babies.”
LLLGB uses the term “chestfeed” to acknowledge those who have undergone transition and prefer not to use the word “breast.” They also advise those determined to chestfeed on how to “stimulate their milk supply” via hormones.
However, one woman, who claims she was a former LLLGB leader, came forward to express “alarm” over what she deemed as potentially unsafe clinical advice.
“I was a La Leche League leader for many years and am very upset to see how the organization has lost its focus on the mother and baby,” she wrote on Mumsnet. “LLLGB should not be promoting the idea that males can induce lactation to feed a baby. There is no evidence to say this is safe, only an anecdotal example of a case where a doctor in the US enabled this to happen using off label drugs.”
Another added her disappointment, suggesting the group could no longer cater to anatomical females who identify as such, who have been historically stigmatized if they have an inability to naturally breastfeed.
“It is really depressing that a breastfeeding charity isn’t prioritizing breastfeeding. There’s so much guilt and shame around women who have a difficult time of it, and so much policing and judgment,” she said. “It is a particular female experience and it is not up for grabs.”
Despite recent criticism, LLLGB’s chairwoman Helen Lloyd confirmed to the Daily Mail that the policy of inclusion had been there since 2017, but remains at the discretion of their individual group leaders.
“Most groups run more than one type of meeting so they can help to make sure the people who need support can get it in an environment they feel comfortable,” Lloyd said.
A Canadian branch made headlines recently when it announced that trans father Trevor MacDonald was named a local group leader, according to Daily Mail.
The US has also added a similar statement to their website, writing that LLL USA “is committed to diversity and inclusion” and “supports all breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding families, inclusive of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, national origin, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, family structure, primary language, ability, or socio-economic status.”
“We would not be in a position to challenge somebody’s gender presentation,” Lloyd said. “If someone is feeding a baby at their chest we would not say ‘get out.’ “
The chairwoman also said the LLLGB was “proud” to make their “reach as wide as possible.”
“I can see it’s unsettling for people who grew up thinking very clearly [that] it’s mothers who breastfeed and believing there is a very clear divide behind sex and gender,” she said. “The world is moving on and we are trying to keep up to date and ensure that there is nobody who needs us and doesn’t get the support.”
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