Glossary Of Breastfeeding Terms
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A Glossary of Breastfeeding Terms and Definitions – Mother Knows Best

Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful experiences that a new mother will experience, it provides the opportunity for special one-on-one time with her new baby, and it is an amazing way to bond with her new little one too. Breastfeeding can also be one of the most confusing and frustrating things that a new mother will experience too.

A new mother is very wise to ask lots of questions of her doctor or midwife. It is also very beneficial to ask experienced breastfeeding moms for nursing advice and tips, and for guidelines on buying baby products that will help them with their breastfeeding experience.

Through experience we know that the more you understand about breastfeeding terms the easier it is to actually master the art of breastfeeding. We have gathered these terms together to help new moms understand some basic breastfeeding lingo. We hope you enjoy this information and that it helps you in your breastfeeding ‘journey’. We would like to encourage you wholeheartedly to stick with it, it really does get easier as you go along, and the health benefits of breastfeeding will last your baby a lifetime!

  • Breast Infection
    See "Mastitis".
  • Breast Pumps
    A device that enables a nursing mother to pump her breast milk into a storage container so that it can be refrigerated or frozen for later use. Breast pumps are a necessity if you plan on leaving your baby for long periods of time or if you plan on returning to work and still want to breastfeed your baby. In recent years breast pumps have been so well designed that their convenience and ease of use make them so much more desirable than using the age old method of manually expressing milk by hand. There are three types of breast pumps available on the market today. For a more precise definition of each please see below:
  • Breast Pumps - Manual Models
    These manual breast pumps are, as the name implies, manually operated, you squeeze a bulb that creates a vacuum through the rhythmical pumping action of your hand. The best kind of manual pump is a one handed one so that your other hand is free to guide your breast into the pump’s funnel.
  • Breast Pumps - Home Electric or Battery Models
    These breast pumps are perhaps one of the best as they are fully automated which is much faster and more efficient than hand pumping! Most come with an adapter that will plug into any standard electrical outlet and they can be battery operated too for when you are away from home. One of the best types of breast pumps available is a Mini Electric breast pump that uses a unique auto-cycle pumping action that simulates baby’s suck-and-release pattern, and some brands have a universal thread that accepts any standard baby bottle to pump your breast milk into (this makes for very convenient storage)!
  • Breast Pumps - Rental Electric Models
    These breast pumps are usually only required in special situations, i.e., for a preemie baby or for twins or triplets. They are huge contraptions that are very expensive; this is why most people only rent them for a nominal monthly rental fee. They can be rented from some hospitals and pharmacies. It is also possible to check the Medela website for more information on finding Rental Electric Pumps.
  • Colic
    Refers to a condition of gas or other digestive irritability in infants up to three months of age. There are many theories on the causes of colic in infants, some of the more popular theories suggest that it can be caused by emotional upset in either the baby or the mother (as a baby can be sensitive to a mother’s emotional state), excessive swallowing of air by the baby (which can happen if the baby is not latched on properly, too much air will be gulped with their breast milk) and/or by overfeeding of the infant. One new theory that also seems to make a lot of sense considering the majority of today’s modern diet; that a colicky baby’s body system is too alkaline and too high in sodium. In breast fed infants colic can also be caused by an allergy or a sensitivity to foods that the mother is eating. It is recommended that new mothers take note of the following foods that are widely recognized as causing digestive upset or colic in some sensitive infants: soy, wheat, milk and other dairy products, corn, eggs and spicy foods. If you have a colicky infant it is also wise to stay away from foods that are well recognized as causing gas; cabbage, onions, garlic and beans.
  • Colostrum
    The often yellow and sometimes clear fluid that is released by a new mother’s breasts before her breast milk comes in. This fluid has often been referred to as “liquid gold” and it resembles blood more than it does milk as it contains protective white blood cells capable of attacking harmful bacteria. Colostrum provides a new baby high levels of antibodies from his/her mother and it also acts to “seal” the inside of the baby’s intestines thus preventing the invasion of bacteria. Colostrum is an ideal first food for baby as it is high in protein and low in sugar and fat, thus making it easy to digest.
  • Expressing Milk
    Any method of extracting breast milk from a mother. There are two different methods of expressing breast milk; expressing by hand or expressing by a manual or electric breast pump. Expressing by hand involves dedication and some work; you need to sit comfortably at a table with a clean bowl in front of you. Gently massage your breast in downward strokes, apply gentle downward pressure on the area behind the areola. Squeeze your thumbs and the forefingers together while at the same time pressing backwards, your breast milk should spurt out through your nipple. Continue this procedure until enough milk has been collected. For information on expressing with breast pumps see under the heading: Breast Pumps.
  • Food Introduction
    A baby is generally ready for solids when you see that he/she is sitting alone, when teeth erupt, when baby starts grabbing for food and has the ability to pick up small objects, when baby shows interest in watching others eat, when baby shows the ability to use his/her tongue to make a bolus of food and guide it to the back of the mouth for swallowing, when he/she can lean back or turn away when they’ve had enough. For prevention of allergies in babies it is best to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months; studies have shown that any food that is introduced to baby before 6 months has a much greater risk of making a baby allergic to that food later in life. These are recommended guidelines for each new food added to baby’s diet:
      *Delay introduction of grains and cereals until baby is nine months old to reduce chances of allergies to grains.

      *Delay introduction of the following allergy causing foods until 12-24 months of age: Yogurt, cheese, eggs, fish, chicken, wheat, tomatoes, citrus foods, seeds and nuts.

      *Delay introduction of known highly allergenic foods until baby is 2 years of age: shell fish, peanuts, cow’s milk and chocolate.

      *Introduce cooked fruits and veggies vs. fresh fruits and veggies first.

      *Use organic when possible as the safest dosage of pesticides for infants is not well established.
  • Foods That Help Enrich Breast Milk
    Legumes, peas, barley, oats, almonds, walnuts, sesame, flax seed, pumpkin, sunflower seeds. Avoid black tea and coffee as they tend to decrease milk supply.
  • Foremilk and Hind milk
    Foremilk is the watery thirst-quenching fluid that your breasts give at the beginning of each feeding. As your baby nurses the fat content of your breast milk rises and the baby starts getting hind milk which his rich in calories. This is why it is important to let your baby nurse for at least 15 minutes on each breast as otherwise he/she will only be getting foremilk and will be hungry again soon!
  • Freezing of Breast Milk
    See storage of breast milk
  • Herbs That Help Enrich Breast Milk
    Garlic, dill, caraway, fennel, fenugreek seeds, and cinnamon. A good tea to make is: mix 2 tsps of fenugreek seeds with 12 ounces of water, simmer seeds in water for 10 minutes. Strain. Add honey if desired. Drink 1 cup three times per day.
  • Jaundice
    A yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Jaundice is caused by an excess build-up of bilirubin, which is a yellow pigment that is present to some degree in all blood. A baby’s skin becomes yellowish when the amount of bilirubin is higher than normal. Until a baby’s liver is able to process bilirubin, it may increase in his/her blood. This normal rise of bilirubin is the most common form of jaundice in babies and about 40% of all babies develop it. It is usually noticed on baby’s second or third day of life, and it generally disappears by one week of age. Breast-milk jaundice is an unusual form of jaundice that occurs in approximately one in 250 nursing babies. Breast milk jaundice does not usually appear until the fifth day of life. It usually lasts four to six weeks, and sometimes will last for as long as eight to ten weeks. The exact cause of breast-milk jaundice is not known, and thankfully it has never been known to cause any problems for a baby.
  • La Leche League
    Founded in 1956 by seven women who had learned about successful breastfeeding while nursing their own babies, La Leche League is the only organization with the sole purpose of helping breastfeeding mothers. La Leche League currently has 8,000 Leaders and is 3,000 local Groups strong in the United States alone. La Leche League Groups meet regularly in communities worldwide to share breastfeeding information and mothering experiences. Each year, an estimated 750,000 American mothers call La Leche League with questions and concerns. Telephone counseling is available 24-hours a day, along with access to an extensive library of breastfeeding literature.
  • Lanolin
    A cream that is applied to sore, cracked nipples. Lanolin will not prevent nipple soreness, but it is very soothing to already sore and cracked ones. Make sure that you only use a pure form of lanolin as this will prevent allergies to the toxins that come in impure forms. There are some very good pure forms of lanolin cream for sore and cracked nipples available on the market today, it is best to ask your health care provider which one they recommend.
  • Latching
    The term used to describe how your baby attaches himself/herself to your breast. You know that your baby is latched on properly when he/she doesn’t just suck, he/she “milks” your breast with his/her jaws by pressing on the reservoirs of milk at the base of the areola. Note: if your baby just sucks on your nipple, you will get very sore nipples and he/she will also not get any milk. Even with proper latching you may get an initial momentary piercing pain, breathe deeply to help yourself relax and remember that this pain will only be momentary. You can tell that your baby is latched on and nursing properly when you see his/her temples and ears moving, this indicates that his/her jaw muscles are working and “milking” your breast properly.
  • Let-down Reflex
    The initial warm rush of milk that you feel, sort of like a tingling sensation, after your baby has latched on to your breast. Your baby’s sucking will stimulate the let-down reflex. Not everyone feels the let-down reflex though, so there is no need to worry if you don’t. If the let-down reflex causes milk to leak out of your other nipple too, which it often does, just be prepared and wear a breast pad in the cups of your nursing bras and this will help to soak up the excess milk and prevent it from causing unsightly stains on your clothes.
  • Mastitis
    The term applied to a breast infection which is caused by a blocked milk duct that has become infected. Mastitis will cause flu-like symptoms such as a fever, nausea and it will be very painful. You need to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you have mastitis. If left untreated mastitis can lead to a breast abscess which could require surgery. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics and you need to finish the entire course, it is also important to nurse on the infected breast as the best way to help eliminate the blocked duct is to drain the breast of milk frequently. Never let a tender lump in your breast go for longer than one day without seeking medical attention as mastitis can appear very quickly (in most cases you will feel fine at bed time and you can wake up in the morning with a full blown breast infection!).
  • Meconium
    The term applied to a newborn baby’s first bowel movement. Baby’s first bowel movement, or meconium, will be very dark, almost black, in color and is very sticky. It is important for meconium to pass from the newborn baby so that the liver can start eliminating bilirubins from the body, if meconium does not pass the bilirubin back up can cause jaundice. A doctor or midwife will have a new mother check a new baby’s diapers to make sure that the meconium has passed out.
  • Medications (that are taken by the mother)
    Most medications that a mother takes will pass through her breast milk and thus the baby will receive a diluted form of the medication. A mother needs to consider if the health benefits of this medication outweigh the risks of her baby receiving the medication too. If a mother needs to take a medication for a short period of time i.e., 1 to 2 weeks, it might be better to use stored breast milk for this duration and pump her breast milk and discard it during this time. Any use of medications while you are nursing a baby should be discussed with your health care provider.
  • Menstruation (and its resumption)
    A new mother’s menstrual periods will return with great variation between women. They usually resume once your baby is cutting down on his/her regular breastfeedings, which is usually around the time that you start introducing solids. So most women can expect their periods to resume at about 9 months post-partum, although some women we know have not resumed their periods until they are completely done with nursing their baby; which can be anywhere from 12-24 months post partum. You may notice that your baby is fussy when nursing when your period resumes, some people say that during menstruation the taste of your milk changes!
  • Nursing Bras
    Although nursing clothing & nursing bras are not absolutely essential most new mothers find them extremely comfortable to wear because their post-pregnancy breasts are so much bigger and heavier that the support is a welcome relief! A good nursing bra features non-elastic straps for sufficient support, front cup fasteners that can be undone and done up easily with one hand, and plastic-free cotton cups that permit good air circulation to the nipples. It is also important to get a good fit for a nursing bra so as to get proper support (most online maternity shops give mothers good guidelines for measuring themselves so that they can order their correct size). It has also been well documented that nursing bras with underwires are a prime culprit in helping to cause breast infections, so a new mother would be wise to stay away from nursing bras that have underwires.
  • Nursing Pads
    Small round pads that are specially made to fit inside nursing bras and soak up leaking breast milk. They are very useful in helping to prevent unsightly milk stains on your clothing and bed sheets at night. Nursing pads come in two varieties; reusable and disposable. Whichever you decide is best for you, just be sure to check that they do not have plastic or waterproof liners in them as this can cause moisture to accumulate and this dampness can cause sore cracked nipples. Keeping your nipples dry is the best way to prevent cracked nipples!
  • Nursing Pillows
    Usually a donut like shaped pillow that sits around a mother’s waist. This allows for a comfortable resting place that is close to your body to hold your baby. It allows a little more freedom of movement for your arms to hold books to read and drink a glass of water while you are nursing. Nursing pillows are also ideal when you want to tandem nurse twins simultaneously. Nursing pillows make great baby shower gifts since they are the sort of thing that's nice to have, but you don’t want to “splurge” on for yourself!
  • Positioning of Baby for Comfortable Nursing
    There are a few different positions that a new mother can use to maximize her and baby’s comfort during nursing. Each one is convenient in different situations and circumstances. Please see below for a definition of each:
      Cradle or Cuddle Hold – is where the baby’s head is held in the crook of the mother’s arm. This nursing position is considered the classic breastfeeding position! This is usually the most effective and easiest position for new mothers, it can be used when the mother is either sitting or standing – very convenient! The other nursing positions listed below come in handy for mother’s that have had a cesarean and want to keep baby’s weight off of their sore tummies!

      Football Hold – a great position for mother’s that have had a cesarean birth and want to avoid placing the baby against their abdomen. The mother should sit in a comfortable armchair with a pillow at her side to help support her arm and to lift the baby. Support the baby in a semi-sitting position facing the mother. The mother should slide her bottom snugly to the back of the chair. Her arm closest to her baby should support the baby’s back with her hand holding the baby’s neck and head. The top of the baby’s head should be as high as the top of the mother’s breast, and the baby’s legs should be lying on the pillow and resting to the side of the mother.

      Side-lying Position – this nursing position is a great choice for nursing when the mother must lay flat after a cesarean birth, or just for when you are nursing at night. For this position the mother and her baby lie on their sides, tummy to tummy, as with the cuddle hold. The mother should cup her breast and lift upwards, then pull the baby in close to nurse. She should put the arm that she is lying on straight up (above her head), rest it on the bed and place her body weight on it.

      Cross-over Hold – the mother should sit in a chair with padded arms, place one or two pillows on her lap so that the baby is laying on his/her side right in front of the mother at the level of her breast. Instead of resting the baby’s head in the bend of your elbow as in the cradle hold, hold him/her with the opposite arm, so that your hand rests between the shoulder blades and supports the back of the baby’s neck and head, pull your baby in to nurse.
  • Relactation
    The term applied to resuming a mother’s supply of breast milk once nursing has stopped. Occasionally a mother may want to resume nursing after she has stopped. As a general rule the less time that has elapsed since weaning your baby the more likely it will be that you can bring back a full milk supply. Frequent and regular stimulation of breasts is critical to milk production. A mother should talk to her health care provider to get advice on the best method of relactation for her.
  • Storage and Safe Use of Stored Breast Milk
    Please see below for information for instructions on safe storage of breast milk, and how to thaw and warm stored breast milk.
      Safe Storage of Breast Milk – Breast milk should be stored in plastic bags that are measured into single feeding amounts. Baby bottle liners, freezer bags and clean plastic baby bottles make great storage containers. It is important to note that as less breast milk than formula is needed at a feeding, so is best that you store breast milk in two to four ounce quantities per storage container.

      Thawing and Warming Breast Milk – Use the oldest milk that you have in your freezer first. Breast milk often separates when it has been frozen and then thawed. Simply shake it gently to remix it after it has thawed. Thaw breast milk by putting the container in the fridge or under cold running water until thawed. Never thaw breast milk at room temperature or in the microwave. And, breast milk must never be refrozen. Note: always use refrigerated thawed milk within 24 hours.

      Normal Variations in Breast Milk – It is important to note that each woman’s breast milk is unique. Studies have been done taking samples of breast milk from different women and each is very different in texture and color. The odor, color and consistency of breast milk varies depending upon a mother’s diet. It is normal for human milk to be yellowish, bluish or even brownish in color. Note that this color may change when breast milk is frozen.
  • Signs That Breastfeeding is Going Well
      * No breast pain or soreness for mother when latching occurs.

      * Baby will have good jaw action and you will hear him/her swallowing.

      * Baby finishes drinking spontaneously.
      * Baby will have 6-8 wet diapers per day once your milk is in. Note that a baby’s bowel movements vary.

      * Length of baby’s feed varies from 10-15 minutes to 45-60 minutes.

      * Baby gains 3-7 ounces of weight per week. Baby will double his/her weight by 6 months of age and will triple his/her weight by one year.
  • Thrush
    This is usually an infection that shows up in a baby’s mouth as a white or creamy yellow slightly raised patches on the inside of the cheeks, on the tongue or on the roof of the mouth. These patches do not come away easily when you try to wipe them off. Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast that naturally lives in the intestines and the mouth. Thrush occurs when the yeast grows out of control as the normal bacteria that controls it’s growth is out of balance. The rash can be sore and irritating and very bothersome to nursing babies. Occasionally, it spreads throughout the intestines and causes a rash around baby’s anus. It is not a serious infection, but it can be stubborn at healing and is irritating to baby. It is best cleared up under the supervision of your health care provider.
  • Weaning
    The term given to the ending of breastfeeding of a baby. There are many opinions on how long one should breastfeed a baby; it really is an individual decision that each mother must decide for herself. Two facts to consider when deciding on an age for weaning a baby are:
      * One year old babies only have about 60% of adult capability for fighting infections, so the breast milk that they receive after one year still has immunological value for them. Keeping in mind that formula has no immunological value.

      * Weaning does not speed the process of your baby achieving independence.
  • Weight Gain in Baby
    A healthy breastfeeding baby will gain 3-7 ounces of weight per week. Baby will double his/her weight by 6 months of age and will triple his/her weight by one year.

It is comforting to know that breastfeeding provides 100% of a baby’s nutritional needs up to 6 months of age or more and up to 50% of their nutritional needs can be provided up to 2 years of age! It has also been well researched that breastfeeding and a later introduction of solids (i.e. starting a baby on solids only once they reach six months of age) decreases the likelihood of the development of allergic sensitivities to certain foods later in life. In recent years it has been well established that if babies are given any food other than breast milk in their first six months of life it increases their chances of food sensitivities developing. It is interesting to note that two of the most common types of allergies in adults today are dairy and wheat allergies – probably the two most common foods that most babies where fed in earlier days (mixed together in baby cereal preparations!). Breastfeeding also gives infants vital antibodies and immune enhancing benefits that are necessary to protect them against illnesses such as colds, ear infections and some kinds of measles.

We hope that the rich information given above will help every mother so that she will find breastfeeding to be the satisfying experience that it really can be!

About the Author

Julia Mahler is a successful and talented freelance writer providing advice for parents and consumers on purchasing a variety of baby products, gifts & supplies which includes cribs, cradles & accessories and baby strollers. Her numerous articles provide a wonderfully researched resource and relevant information for all of your baby’s needs.

This "Glossary of Breastfeeding Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

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