Increasing cultural diversity and personal mobility have created a growing need for universal modes of communication. The International Breastfeeding Symbol (IBS) was developed in the style of the AIGA DOT Symbol Signs commonly seen in public places. Symbols like these require careful design because they need to be understood at a glance by most people without written descriptions explaining what they mean.

The International Breastfeeding Symbol was created by Matt Daigle, a graphic artist and father. He created the symbol in response to a contest hosted by ‘Mothering’ magazine. The winner was chosen in November 2006 out of a total of more than 500 entries. Daigle, a stay-at-home-father, freelance graphic designer, and cartoonist, said that his breastfeeding wife and son were the inspiration behind his creation.

A steadfast advocate for on-cue nursing (anytime, any place), Daigle told Mothering, “As a profoundly deaf individual, I know how important it is to communicate through visual means. This is why I wanted my design to communicate clearly and quickly that breastfeeding facilities are offered or nearby.” Find more from Daigle at The Graphix GuyM.Diagle Toons and read more of his behind the scenes story on the symbol here. Daigle generously signed the symbol over to the public domain.

The International Breastfeeding Symbol was created specifically to address the perceived problem of not having a universally accepted and understood symbol for breastfeeding available in public places. It came upon the heels of Mothering staff noticing an “image of a baby bottle on an airport sign announcing the location of a ‘parents lounge’ [that] infuriated them and got them thinking: Isn’t there an international symbol for breastfeeding?”

Too often, modern icons used to symbolize baby-friendly locations depict artificial feeding or soothing means, such as bottles and pacifiers. The IBS presumably will fill the gap for a universally accepted and understood symbol for locations where nursing moms are welcome to meet the needs of their little ones. Nursing rooms traditionally use a baby bottle symbol to designate what they are instead of a symbol of a mother nursing a child. The IBS may be helpful in shifting the bottle-feeding cultural paradigm toward the biological norm of breastfeeding. In July 2007, the International Breastfeeding Symbol site, dedicated to the new symbol, was launched.

During Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2010, Christy, a mother of 3, found that even the official International Breastfeeding Symbol did not quite reflect the realities of nursing her older baby at the time. Desiring a fitting image for Breastfeeding Awareness Week, Christy propositioned her friend at Skribblings by Skratte to come up with a more telling depiction of toddler nursing. Below are some additional
attempts of nursing symbols for toddlers, breast pumps, and two children. And the breast marches on!


The design denizens at Ultimate Symbol decided to enhance the original IBS by improving the object to field relationship and cleaning up the curves to more closely reflect the geometrics of accepted standards used in international signing, such as the DOT Transportation symbols developed by the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) in the early ’70’s.  The results, in both negative contrast and positive contrast versions (below), will be available as downloadable vectors on the Ultimate Symbol web site early next year.



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