Rachel Lee, a London-based neonatal nurse, noticed a glaring omission among the scores of emoji symbols mobile phone users have at their disposal when texting: For too long there hasn’t been an emoji to symbolize a breastfeeding mother. “When it comes to the baby emoji,” Lee observed in an interview with the BBC, “there wasn’t much to do with that. So, there was the baby bottle, and then nothing else. And I figured that if there was a baby bottle, there should be the other alternative.”
So, how does one go about advocating for the introduction of a new emoji? Well, it involves lobbying the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit that sets the global standard for emoji and other software, CNN reports, to consider new additions. Tech companies create the emojis available on their platforms based in accordance with the guidelines set by the consortium, and Apple announced earlier this year that a breastfeeding emoji would be among its new crop of emojis, which are set to be made available any day now.
“Especially with all the moms I work for, I know that they are really busy and, in the neonatal unit, they are really busy just looking after their little ones,” Lee said. “I don’t think they have got time to go through the process of writing a proposal to the Unicode Consortium to see if they can introduce a breastfeeding emoji.” She did, though, and after six months, thanks to her efforts, breastfeeding moms will have an emoji to represent them.
For Lee, it’s a topic that’s close to her work and her heart. “Breastfeeding in public is not really a thing,” she said. “There are a lot of people who still have very negative things to say about that and think that women should be doing that behind closed doors, that it’s meant to be a private thing. By putting it out there in society, more people will talk about it.”
Lee said she hopes the new emoji “normalizes [breast-feeding] a little bit and hopefully allow society to see it in a different light” so that it’s “not something which should be hidden.” She also cautions that moms who choose not to breast-feed shouldn’t be judged for that decision. Watch the full interview with Lee below.