(This article originally appeared on Scary Mommy.)
On Thursday, the internet powers-that-be, specifically Unicode, “the computing industry standard for encoding,” are gifting us with 56 new emojis for 2017. These include a zombie, a bowl of cereal, an elf, a bearded dude, a woman with a hijab, men and women in lotus positions, gender non-binary adults and children, and — may the heavens open and lactation consultants rejoice — an emoji of a woman breastfeeding.
Sisters in boobage, we have an emoji.
I don’t have to tell you this is a big deal. Unicode approved a baby bottle emoji in 2010, and since then, that bottle’s been the only way to use emojis to express infant feeding. And this has been a big deal, for several reasons: According to the proposal for the breastfeeding emoji, the baby bottle ranks in the top 50% of emojis used. It’s also important when U.S. breastfeeding rates are only 49.4% at six months, and 40.7% exclusive breastfeeding at three months — meaning 59% of mothers are supplementing by three months (this can include formula or food). So more than 50% of mamas do need that bottle emoji by then. Nobody is taking issue with that, I promise.
The CDC’s goals for 2020 have 60.6% of mothers nursing at six months, and 46.2% nursing exclusively at three months. The only way we’ll accomplish that is to make breastfeeding more accessible, and one of the key ways to make it more accessible is to make it more acceptable, more normal, more woven into the fabric of society.
Cue our new emoji.
The breastfeeding emoji was submitted for just that reason by Rachel Lee, a registered nurse at University College of London Hospital. She argued that it would fill a gap “given the prevalence of breastfeeding in cultures around the world, and throughout history.” She cites the frequency of breastfeeding, especially at birth (nearly 80% in the United States), and argues that other apps and sticker packs include breastfeeding moms. Apparently a breastfeeding emoji was one of the top 30 emoji requests, and inspired a Change.org petition, in addition to many tweets asking for it.
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