United Kingdom

Breastfeeding charity sparks outrage by allowing men who identify as female to attend meetings

A breastfeeding charity has sparked outrage by allowing men who identify as female to attend meetings for mothers struggling to feed their babies.

The British branch of the La Leche League (LLLGB) is offering to provide breastfeeding support to transgender women, who were born male.

The charity – founded in 1956 by a group of mothers – runs 80 local groups across Britain where a La Leche 'leader' and mothers will exchange advice.

A breastfeeding charity has sparked outrage by allowing men who identify as female to attend meetings for mothers struggling to feed their babies (stock image)

The group has said that 'the world is moving on' and it is extending help to be as 'inclusive' as possible.

The support is also there for transgender men, who were born female but identify as male, and non-binary people who do not classify themselves as either gender. 

A statement on the charity's website says: 'Trans men, trans women and non-binary individuals may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their babies.

'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.'

Chestfeeding is a term used to avoid causing offence to women who have transitioned to become men and feel uncomfortable using the word 'breast.'

LLLGB advises that transgender women can 'stimulate their milk supply' by going through a lengthy process of taking birth control hormones and an anti-nausea drug to induce lactation.

But this week a former La Leche League leader told how 'alarmed' she was at the prospect of trans women joining meetings with other mothers in a post on Mumsnet. 

She wrote: 'I was a La Leche League leader for many years and am very upset to see how the organisation has lost its focus on the mother and baby.

'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,' she added. 

Another Mumsnet user wrote: 'It is really depressing that a breastfeeding charity isn't prioritising breastfeeding. 

The British branch of the La Leche League (LLLGB) is offering to provide breastfeeding support to transgender women, who were born male (stock image) 

'There's so much guilt and shame around women who have a difficult time of it, and so much policing and judgment.

'It is a particular female experience and it is not up for grabs.'

Last night Helen Lloyd, chairman of La Leche League GB, told The Mail on Sunday that the policy had been in place since 2017. 

She said it would be up to the discretion of local leaders to decide how to handle a request from a transgender woman to join a breastfeeding support group.

'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,' Ms Lloyd said.

But she added: 'We would not be in a position to challenge somebody's gender presentation. If someone is feeding a baby at their chest we would not say get out.'

Asked how she would respond to the criticisms made on Mumsnet, Ms Lloyd said: 'We are absolutely proud to be inclusive and to be making our 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.

'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.' 

Ms Lloyd said she could not give any figures on how many trans women have accessed LLLGB's services because the charity does not record people's gender identity.

The controversy over the British La Leche League's transgender policy comes after a Canadian branch of the organisation made headlines when Trevor MacDonald, a trans man born female, was allowed to become a local group leader.

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