Breastfeeding vs. Nursing

Mary Renee - posted on 04/23/2011 ( 68 moms have responded )

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Aloha,

Growing up I always heard my mom use the term "nursing" when we saw a mother nursing or breastfeeding her child. Now that I'm a mother though, I always hear the term "breastfeeding". What I'm wondering is, what term do you use and why? What term do you prefer? Why do you think there has been a shift from one term to another? Do you think there is a reason for this shift, or (as someone who studied linguistics) do you think that the change in terms indicates something? Does it imply something different? Are there different associations with one or the other?

Or do they just mean exactly the same thing to you and you use them both equally?

I ask because as a child when I heard the term "nursing" it sounded very normal and everyday. While I knew it meant that the mother was feeding the child with her breast, it wasn't thought out like that in my head, it was just simply, the mother is feeding her child. I personally prefer the term "nursing." A lot of times I hear breastfeeding referred to negatively, like this crazy breast feeding mother, oh she's "one of those" lactivists or whatever. I know terms are often very regional, but to me nursing just rolls of the tongue better. I'd rather say to my boyfriend "Wait, I'm going to nurse the baby before we go" instead of "Wait, I have to breastfeed" I guess it sounds less intrusive to me.

What do you think?

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Lady Heather - posted on 01/25/2012

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Nursing isn't really a term that I hear a lot around here. I just call it feeding. Not sure why you need to be specific. I don't say I'm sandwiching for lunch or omeletteing for breakfast.

[deleted account]

Another Aussie here - I always say breastfeeding. An historical note - our primary breastfeeding support organisation is called the Australian Breastfeeding Association. When it was founded, in 1964, it was called the Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia. They had to use the word "nursing" because the word "breastfeeding" wouldn't have got past the censor!

Minnie - posted on 04/24/2011

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The term to nurse implies that one is caring for both the physical and emotional needs of another person. That's why I like it :).

Minnie - posted on 04/24/2011

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I personally make a distinction between breastfeeding my daughter and nursing her. I do both- but for me, breastfeeding is just that: feeding at the breast. Nursing comprises so much more than breastfeeding- the whole relationship, mothering your child at your breast, the connection, the love and comfort.



For me the term breastfeeding doesn't really hold the emotional component that nursing does.

Vicki - posted on 01/25/2012

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Old thread by interesting as I hadn't read it before. The Australian Breastfeeding Association used to be called the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia. They wanted the current name from the start but weren't allowed to be listed anywhere with such a shocking word as 'breast'. I think La Leche League is named for similar reasons. When society got a bit more sensible about the issue the ABA changed their name.



My grandmother refers to 'nursing' to mean have a cuddle with a bub. When my boy was littler she said 'I had a lovely nurse with him this afternoon' and she wasn't referring to inter-generational breastfeeding :)

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Tara - posted on 02/03/2012

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I say nursing if I'm talking to anyone outside the family, breastfeeding when talking to people in a informational capacity and boobing at home. To boob is a verb in our house.

And actually once when we were out shopping my 4 year heard a baby crying and said to me "Why doesn't her mom just boob her?"



My ex's mother was very conservative and reserved. Whenever I started to give the baby a boob she would say "Oh, you're going to feed her from your breast now." and then leave the room.

lol

Merry - posted on 02/02/2012

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That is weird Maree......I've always heard them called nursing bras too! And I agree, it's not maternity. It's AFTER maternity. :)

I have worn nursing bras for the past 2.5 years and have only been pregnant for 9 months of that :)

Maree - posted on 02/02/2012

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On a slightly different topic....I went shopping for what i have always called "nursing" bra's.

The shop assistant looked confused and said "do you mean maternity bra's?"...

I said "yes" and she said... "nursing bra's is such a nice way of putting it"...as if she though i made it up myself or something.

I don't like the term "maternity" bra's because i think of maternity as pregnancy or just after birth....not breast feeding or nursing and certainly not when refering to breast feeding a toddler...it seems weird using the term "maternity"!!!!

Like maternity clothes,i think of them as pregnancy clothes,not for afterwards...

Sorry to go off topic but just felt like commenting on the word "nursing" lol

[deleted account]

I read an article in the paper the other day and it said "the old man was nursing his grandchild"... I had a little chuckle having read this debate on COM because I realised it would sound weird to American readers (nb I'm in Oz).

Beth - posted on 01/31/2012

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I tend to use both pretty equally. But, the reason I use the word "nursing" at all is similar to what you're saying. "Breastfeeding" has become kind of a charged term lately, and people think it implies something about you if you use it. I'm not proud of this but, in certain less open-minded circles I say "nursing" just to avoid sounding like "one of those women". But, as for which term is better to use, I think they're both accurate and both fine to use.

Stifler's - posted on 01/25/2012

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I say feed. My grandma says feed implying breastfeeding so does my mum.

[deleted account]

there's a difference?? shows how much i know, lol...



i guess it's regional, but around here i've heard people use both terms. but then i've also heard "nursing" when referring to bottle-feeding too so i think it's just synonymous with feeding the baby.



i always say "feed the baby" because it's no one else's business how i do it, as long as it's done, really.

Ania - posted on 01/25/2012

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Wow interesting point! I don't know...Maybe BF was invented to bring the attention to the BREAST for no reason

Erin - posted on 01/25/2012

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I think nursing sounds calmer. more serene...call me crazy lol! Breastfeeding is a term I use when im trying to send a que to the people around me to bugger off for 10 minutes while my son eats.

Nursing is when im comfortable just feeding him wherever I am.

Constance - posted on 04/27/2011

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I depends on I guess what comes out of mouth at the time. But I mostly do say nursing. It doesn't seem like there is any difference.

Jane - posted on 04/27/2011

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i think "nursing" came from when people had "wet nurses". the rich often hired other mothers to breastfeed their child and they were called "wet nurses". they were usually servants who had children of their own at the same age.

[deleted account]

I use both... however when speaking to say a male relative other than my husband I tend to say nursing. Mostly because they dont get a mental picture I suppose. I can tell they are more uncomfortable when I say breastfeeding versus nursing and I assume that is why. Most often however we say booby like "time to booby that baby" or "give him the booby milk i pumped while i am at work" my husband started it with my first and it stuck. We usually say it that way when at home or with family and friends that are already used to it. My 2 yr old tells me his brother needs booboo whenever he cries lol. This may be lazy but i think my family leans toward booby because its so much faster to say. I have actually seen little onesies that say " I am a booby baby!"

[deleted account]

I live in western Canada, and I've always refered to it as breastfeeding. I believe Nikki said, very early on in this convo, that "nursing" to me is something you study in university to become a nurse!

Merry - posted on 04/27/2011

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ooh I like that AN. I never thought of it that way. Maybe I should just say feeding. No need to specify that it's by breast. Hmm something to think about.

A - posted on 04/27/2011

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I use both. However, my husbands family is extremely modest and conservative and most of his very large family bottle feed. My husband has 4 siblings and I was the first to breastfeed in the family among the siblings and sibling in laws. So, when I am around them, I notice myself using "nursing" more because I think they would find it less offensive than using "breast" in breastfeeding.

I don't think most people really mean anything by using one word or the other (including myself). But if I really think about it I think I prefer nursing because when I think about it breast feeding just makes it sound like its just a choice for feeding (breast feeding or bottle feeding) whereas nursing encompasses the nurturing aspect of the breastfeeding relationship.

Tshanna Ele - posted on 04/26/2011

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Nursing was actually in reference to a "wet nurse" which was a nanny that breast fed your baby for you. I think that everything is becoming more acceptable now, and it is no longer shush-shush to say "breast" in public.

OhJessie - posted on 04/26/2011

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I just happen to like the term "nursing" but I use them both. Since bottle feeding is artificial it makes more sense to distinguish *that* kind of feeding rather than distinguishing breastfeeding from just "feeding". I'd rather hear more "Well I guess I'll bottlefeed the baby now" and nursing/breastfeeding moms to be able to just say "I'm going to feed the baby now" without making a distinction as though there were something different or strange in breastfeeding.

Merry - posted on 04/26/2011

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And yet, now that I have little to no milk for eric, I find it hard to call it breastfeeding, since he isn't really getting much calories etc from me anymore. Idk, America makes it weird to say you are breastfeeding a toddler, they assume that by then it's purely an emotional comfort thing.

Merry - posted on 04/26/2011

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I tend to say nursing, but I try to say breastfeeding. I think America is so sexualized that the 'breast' part of the word creeps everyone out. I don't like that so I figure we have to start saying breastfeeding more over here so everyone associated breasts with feeding, rather then sex.
So I'm more comfy saying nurse, or feed. But that's something I'm trying to fight off as I feel like breasts need to be taken back to the feeding purpose!

[deleted account]

I think it depends at least for me on the actual situation. With my son if we were at home and could snuggle and have our warm fuzzy moment together it was 'nursing' if at a family member's house I was told where I could go to 'nurse' my son....out in public though where we were at the mall or park or something then it was more of a 'I need to breastfeed him, where should I go' moment. That's just the association I made in my own mind based on how other people view it. I've been told it's innappropriate to 'breastfeed' my kid where I was and that I should do it in a bathroom, I was also complimented by people for 'nursing' my son as opposed to bottle feeding him. It didn't really matter once we had to switch to formula because then it was just about feeding him his bottle but before that I noticed people's choice of wording really did reflect a lot on their oppinion of the act even though at the end of the day both words mean the same thing.

Brittany - posted on 04/26/2011

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I always used the term "breastfeeding" because I didn't actually nurse either of my children. My son had a long frenulum and it made latching on difficult so I just pumped into bottles and fed him with the bottles, with my daughter I just realized I really didn't like nursing, it just wasn't for me.

Jay - posted on 04/26/2011

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i say breastfeeding, never met any1 else who is or has though, from ireland,,,,
i tell my hubby im just gonna feed him before we go..

BUT he is from liberia and says when the baby is hungry ''babe he wants to suck'' or ''let him suck'' and i don't like that.... :) xx

Noreen - posted on 04/25/2011

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I think I use the term equally depending on where I am and what the situation is. But since I can't be sure, I decided to ask my 6.5 and 5yr old sons becasue I couldn't remember what term I use with them. So I asked Kaleb (6.5) who was sitting next to me. "Kaleb, how does a mother feed her baby?" Kaleb- "By holding their baby up close to them" Me-"How does she feed the baby or what is it called?" Kaleb-"Nursing" Me-"What is breastfeeding?" Kaleb- "The same as nursing" Then I called Noah (5) over who was in a different playing. "Noah, how does a mother feed her baby?" Noah-"With breastmilk" Me-"What is it called??" Noah-"Nursing" Me-"Is it called breastfeeding too?" Noah-"Yes"

So I guess with the boys, I use nursing. I've never really put to much thought into what to call it to be honest. I just know tht when we are out in public or at someone's house, I do use "Nursing" so that I won't make other too uncomfortable. But at home, I just say, "I need to feed or nurse Abby(my 19mo old daughter)" Maybe I use nursing because that is what my mother used for us :)

Sylvia - posted on 04/25/2011

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I always say "nursing". Like you said, it sounds weird to me to say "I'm going to go breastfeed the baby now" o_O. (Although I might say "I'm going to feed the baby", I guess.)

I'm in Canada btw. I remember when I was travelling in Australia as a teenager that people said "nurse" meaning "hold" or "cuddle" -- though it was in reference to rescued wildlife, not people babies, LOL.

This may just be me, but to me "breastfeeding" sounds (a) like a clinical/technical term and (b) like it's all about nutrition, whereas "nursing" sounds like, um, what nursing is actually like. (For example, I would say "nursing relationship" but I don't think I'd ever say "breastfeeding relationship".) Among mums I personally know, I noticed that the ones who call what they're doing "breastfeeding" have been those who did it the least, or were even hostile towards it, whereas those like me who kept on doing it for ages and ages sort of as a matter of course (my DD nursed until she was four and a half or so, for instance, and I have 2 nieces who did the same) tend to call it "nursing". But that's not data, just anecdotes ;)

Sarah - posted on 04/25/2011

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I say breastfeeding. I've only ever said breastfeeding or heard people say breastfeeding... GUESS WHERE I'M FROM? :D
To me nursing sounds like old ladies who are uncomfortable associating baby being fed with boooobs so just say nursing lol :)
Or as the other aussies said, a nurse of a baby is a cuddle.. but i usually just say cuddle :)

Sal - posted on 04/25/2011

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you can nurse while bottle feeding or breast or niether, but pretty tricky to breast feed without nursing

Sal - posted on 04/25/2011

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for me nursing has a double meaning, it can be just holding cuddling you baby, breast feeding is only that and feeding can be breast, bottle or solids..

Joanna - posted on 04/24/2011

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When speaking with women my Mother's age or older, or aquaintances I use the term nursing. For younger women or good friends I tend to use Breastfeeding. And I say "feed" too, though if I'm with my husband/best friend, I'll announce "it's booby time!!". :D

[deleted account]

I "breastfed" my children. However, if asked what someone is doing then I say they are nursing their baby. I don't really differentiate between the two and I use both names to discribe a mother feeding their baby the natural way.

Cassie - posted on 04/24/2011

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I use both but I do tend to say nursing more. Actually, if I am talking about Emma needing to eat, I typically just say "I'm going to feed Emma" Rather than breastfeed or nurse her. I am conscientious of whom I am speaking to when I use breastfeeding or nursing. If I am around people that I am not familiar with, I will discuss nursing my daughter rather than breastfeeding her. I'm not sure why but it makes me more comfortable.

Dana - posted on 04/24/2011

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I use the term breastfeeding. Although when I'm talking to someone I'm not that close to and ask if they're breastfeeding or using formula, I refer to it as nursing. I guess I feel like it would be a less offensive way of asking something that's probably none of my business. lol

Jodi - posted on 04/24/2011

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I started out saying breastfeeding...at some point during the 20 months of nursing my firstborn i started saying nursing. Now, with my 3 month old girls, I say nursing...not sure why, but I only saying breastfeeding when I'm being negative about it...

Krista - posted on 04/24/2011

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I tend to use the term breastfeeding, but do agree that "nursing" has a more natural, nurturing sound to it.

Is there a distinction? It's minimal, probably. But when I think of breastfeeding, I think of it as also including at-breast supplementation, which is something that a lot of BFAR women do.

Bonnie - posted on 04/24/2011

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I'm Canadian. I used the term 'feed'. I commonly hear breastfeed or nurse here so I think it depends on who i'm talking to.

User - posted on 04/24/2011

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I go for the nursing on the first cuople or few months to strengthen their immune system, then it's over because it really hurts to become very full and the baby sucking ferociously! I do this in private though.

April - posted on 04/24/2011

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i use both depending on the mood i am in. sometimes on COM it is just faster to type nursing. my mom always says nursing because "breastfeeding" creeps her out. sometimes i say i am going to breastfeed zach (instead of nurse) just to annoy her and to make a point that yes I still FEED my 2 year old.

Amanda - posted on 04/24/2011

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My family uses "Gettums" as in come and get them LOL. If its not a family friend I say breastfeeding. I think it takes the shock out of breastfeeding, theres no surpises the name clearly states there will be a breast in this feeding LOL.

Rosie - posted on 04/24/2011

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i use both. but when i am talking about a person who is a bit crazy about breastfeeding, and who demeans others for formula feeding, i always say breastfeeding mother. never nursing. dont' know why...

Johnny - posted on 04/24/2011

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I used both interchangeably. I rather like the term nursing a bit more. It sounds nurturing whereas breastfeeding sounds a bit clinical for me.

[deleted account]

I have heard nursing for both.As in bottle fed(formula) babys to.So i guess maybe its to set the two apart.

[deleted account]

I used the phrase "nursing" for the 9 months I did nurse. I think someone said it earlier-it just sounded better/nicer? Oh well. I do like the way Lisa differentiated the 2 phrases. Never thought of seperating the 2.

[deleted account]

I say the baby is having milk, i have to give her milk or would you like some nommies . I rarely use nursing or breast feeding terms.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 04/24/2011

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Nursing to me is reserved for infants, while breastfeeding is a more general term to me. I never used the term nurse, it sounds like it should only be done for infants. Although I am not a fan of extended breastfeeding, the term breastfeeding is more natural for me to say for all ages.

Tara - posted on 04/24/2011

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I use feed the baby etc. Nursing is what my mother in law or my mom says I'm doing when I have the baby at my breast. Breastfeeding is what my doctor says when he asks if I am still breastfeeding.

How long are you going to breastfeed that child is what people who don't like extended nursing say.

It's so nice you're still nursing is what I like to hear.

Not sure why the difference but breastfeeding sounds technical while nursing sounds natural but feeding is what I do so that is what I usually use.

edited to fix a typo

Tracey - posted on 04/24/2011

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Nursing to me implies doing something medical. I used to say going to feed my baby.

Alyssa - posted on 04/24/2011

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Aussie!!....I always said breastfeeding. Just the lingo used here more I guess. I do like the term "nursing" more though, It implies a less socially conflictive terminology toward generally caring for your baby. Kind of generalises and normalises breastfeeding I think, I think if I had another I would use nursing more.

Jenn - posted on 04/24/2011

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I use both terms equally and don't think it means a darn thing if you use one or the other. And to be honest, in your example I wouldn't say either - I'd say "wait, I have to feed the baby".

Mel - posted on 04/24/2011

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I just the term breast feed and have always figured nursing as an american term

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