Breastfeeding, breastfed, breastfeed, etc.

Breastfeed, breastfed, breastfeeding, etc. are sometimes spelled as two words (breast feed, etc.) or hyphenated (breast-feed, etc.), but they are increasingly spelled as one, unhyphenated word, especially outside the U.S. Some publications will continue to resist the trend (new compounds always face resistance for a while), but the one-word forms will likely prevail in the long run.

Exactly how new are the one-word forms? According to the ngram below, which graphs the use of breastfeeding, breast-feeding,and breast feeding in a large number of English-language books, magazines, and journals published between 1950 and 2000, the one-word form prevailed around 1975.

Breastfeeding Vs Breast Feeding Vs Breast Feeding English

The prevalence of the one-word forms is borne out on the web, where breastfeeding is about three times more common than breast feeding and breast-feeding combined.

There are notable exceptions, though. The New York Times, for one, still favors the hyphenated forms, and such choices in the influential Times tend to ripple through the rest of American publishing, especially in newswriting. The Associated Press stylebook also recommends the hyphenated forms.


Although the one-word, unhyphenated forms are most common throughout the English-speaking world, there is little consistency, and examples of all three spellings (one word with no hyphen, one word with a hyphen, and two words with no hyphen) are easily found:

Now health authorities and breast-feeding advocates are leading a nationwide effort to ban formula samples. [New York Times]

In breastfed infants, maternal exercise did not significantly affect infant weight gain. [Pediatrics]

At this writing, forty-four states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws whose language specifically permits women to breastfeed in any public or private location. [The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, Sally Wendkos Olds and Laura Marks]

About 10,000 fewer young children a year would require hospital treatment if more women breastfed their babies, a charity says. [Independent Online]

The 37-year-old mother of eight pretended to breast feed two dolls on stage and poured vodka into one of their mouths. [Daily Mail]

A mother was told she must breastfeed in the toilets at an Indian hall in Wellington. []

3 thoughts on “Breastfeeding, breastfed, breastfeed, etc.”

  1. So is this one of those bi-directional words?
    I mean is the mother breastfeeding or is the child breastfeeding?

    • in so far as I can speak as a native english speaker. I would say it is bidirectional only in it’s intransitive form.

      Intransitive, mother
      Look mommy that woman is breastfeeding

      intransitive, child
      He’s so cute, is he still breastfeeding?

      transitive, mother
      That woman is breastfeeding her child.

      transitive, child
      that child is breastfeeding from the mother. – awkward unused and I’m fairly certain might be grammatically incorrect.

      the same should apply with nursing.


Leave a Comment