I’ve now seen three spellings for the same term:

  • The Wikipedia article is called Breastfeeding.
  • The Unicode standard calls the 🤱 emoji breast-feeding. Google adds “Did you mean: breastfeeding?” to the results page for breast-feeding.
  • I’ve even seen it written as “breast feeding” in some places.

Is this a regional thing? British/American differences? Or simply more or less popular alternative spellings?

  • 2
    There are no hard & fast rules around hyphens. It's down to a matter of "house style". Check out this piece in the Guardian Style guide for a well-explained intro on their recommendations (UK national newspaper. Can't link directly to the section but if you search for 'hyphens' you'll find it.) Aug 17 '21 at 16:44
  • 2
    They're "simply more or less popular alternative spellings". And as you can see from that chart, the winner of this particular "beauty contest" has changed over time. As with most such expressions, two words gives way to the hyphenated version, which eventually becomes just a single word. Aug 17 '21 at 16:47

Use "breastfeeding".

An ngrams graph is instructive:

enter image description here

Prior to 1900, you nursed a baby. It is only with the development of powdered milk in the 1920s that the notion of "feeding with the breast" became a notion that needed a word, and the compound "breast feeding" was initially the most common. In the it became apparent that milk formula companies were abusing their power to sell formula, even though breastmilk is usually better for babies. The Nestlé boycott of 1977 led to a significant rise in the use of the compound, and so some began hyphenating or combining the words. As the spaceless version gained acceptance, the other forms declined.

Nowadays the "correct" term is breastfeeding. Soon, writing "breast‑feeding" will look as odd as "to‑day".

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