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.

    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:


    1. reardensteel says

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

      • superwolfkin says

        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.

    2. This is great information! I didn’t know there was a chart on the prevalence of one-word or two-word phrases. I will be checking out ngram viewer. I use this word analysis info every day in what I do.

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