Breastfeeding emoji in the works

A breastfeeding emoji may be gracing our keyboards in 2017.

According to Unicode, a breastfeeding emoji was among the most requested characters of 2016 and has long been called for by social media users.

The decision is to be made by the Unicode Consortium’s technical committee in their next meeting.

The emoji has been designed by Rachel Lee, a nurse at the University College of London Hospital. She recently submitted the formal proposal to Unicode containing evidence on how breastfeeding benefits sustainable development, by quoting organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Ms Lee also cited other emoji services that already provide breastfeeding symbols and gave an estimate of expected frequency of use. She quoted the Centre for Disease Control’s estimation that ‘three million mothers participate in breastfeeding in the US at any given time.’

The breastfeeding emoji is intended to complement the present baby bottle emoji and complete the set of family emoji’s - including the recently added same-sex and single-parent families.

Lee said, “The lack of a breastfeeding emoji represents a gap in Unicode Standard given the prevalence of breastfeeding in cultures around the world, and throughout history”.

“I am under no delusion that creating a small emoji to exist in this society may not be the real push to normalise breastfeeding in public forums, but if it helps just get the message out there by creating discussion and gathering support, then it’s all worth it.”
— Rachel Lee

Lee told The Huffington Post, “I just don’t think we are exposed to it enough in society and sometimes we forget how important it is developmentally in all areas to mothers and their babies.” She believes that the promotion of breastfeeding is very important and is hoping this emoji will promote inclusion and breakdown negative public perception towards breastfeeding in public."

The emoji features a mother feeding the baby in cradle hold – the most popular method of holding a baby while breastfeeding. Ms Lee has ensured the design is distinct from all other emojis currently available by making the mother headless and focusing on the act of breastfeeding.  

Should the emoji be approved, Unicode said that it would include a range of skin tones and will be scheduled for release mid-2017.