Like it or not, emojis are essential to conversations these days. Whether it’s an anthropomorphic cat, a glass of wine, or a flamenco dancer, emojis reflect what’s going on in our lives and, in a sense, take our conversations beyond words.
And while there are customized emojis for conditions like diabetes and self-care, strangely enough, one lifestyle is underrepresented in the emoji-universe: Motherhood.
Rachel Lee, a neonatal nurse based in London, is out to change that.
Lee noticed that an image of a breastfeeding mother was sorely lacking from the emoji pool. “There was a baby bottle, and then nothing else. And I figured that if there was a baby bottle, there should be the other alternative,” she told the BBC.
So, Lee began the process of lobbying the Unicode Consortium for an emoji that represented breastfeeding. And to much excitement, six months later, Apple announced that it would release the breastfeeding emoji with its new crop.
Why an emoji? Duh, breast milk delivers essential nutrients
The addition of a breastfeeding emoji may not sound huge, but it supports a huge movement. And it reflects growing parenting trends, along with the findings of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Both organizations recommend that—when mothers are able to breastfeed—babies should consume only breast milk until they’re six months old. And with good reason: breast milk delivers vital antibodies as well as a host of vital nutrients in the ideal measurements for healthy growth.
Today, more and more women in the United States are saying “yes” to breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four out of five babies born every year begin their lives breastfeeding. And 50 percent of them are still breastfeeding six months later. Breastmilk is the best food for infants.
But…breast may not be best for all moms
Despite the benefits, some mothers who are able to breastfeed stop before the six-month mark which can be due to a variety of reasons. The CDC reports that many women “may not be getting the support they need, such as from healthcare providers, family members, and employers.”
And as Megan Renner, executive director of the United States Breastfeeding Commission (USBC), told Healthline, when moms go back to work, there is often a huge drop-off in breastfeeding rates. This is partly because the United States does not offer federal paid family leave, which can create a barrier between the mother and her desire to breastfeed.
So, let’s text…
Thanks to Lee, mothers everywhere can now show their support. While an emoji may seem like a drop in the social media bucket, it speaks volumes. Perhaps the addition of a breastfeeding mother to the emoji lexicon will help normalize what major health organizations argue is a vital part of early motherhood…and bring understanding and empathy to mothers everywhere.