The Breastfeeding Glossary — Things You Should Know

By Katie Brooker

Mar 19, 2020

Breastfeeding, like most things, has its own language. Understanding commonly used terminology will help guide you through your research, and is the key to a successful breastfeeding journey.

We have compiled a list of breastfeeding terms and their definitions to get you started.

Areola: The areola is the dark, round area that surrounds your nipple.

Alveoli: The glands that produce and secrete milk.

Biological nursing: A laid back breastfeeding position. This is particularly useful for women with smaller breasts and for women who want to catch up on some rest while breastfeeding.

Blocked milk ducts: When the milk ducts become clogged or blocked and milk is unable to flow freely. This condition is usually caused by mastitis.

Breast pump: A specially designed machine that draws breast milk from the breast using suction. Can be manual or electric.

Colostrum: A thick, creamy, yellow substance that is produced by the breast post birth. This is the baby’s first feed/s and is full of valuable nutrients and immune boosting enzymes designed to give the baby the best start in life.

Cooper’s ligaments: The ligaments that support the breast tissue.

Cluster feeding: When your baby wants a lot of feeds in a short amount of time. Usually occurs prior to a growth spurt.

Clutch hold: Also known as the football hold. This is a breastfeeding position used by women who have had C-sections, twins or have large breasts. Baby is simply tucked under the arm much like a football and is fed this way.

Cradle hold: This is probably the most common breastfeeding position adopted by women. The baby lies across your body resting into your elbow. Your other arm slides under the baby supporting their back.

Colic: A common condition that affects 1 in 5 babies in the early months. Baby experiences abdominal pain, which causes an erratic sleep and crying pattern.

Duct: A passageway that stores and carries milk.

Engorgement: When the breast becomes sore and swollen. This is a result of the breasts being too full of milk.

Extended breastfeeding: When a toddler continues to breastfeed past the age of 1 year.

Flat nipple: When the nipple does not protrude.

Foremilk: This is the first milk released by the breast at the beginning of every feed. This milk is much more watery and will quench babies thirst.

Feeding on demand: Baby is fed when they are hungry. Feeding is not timed to a clock, but to your baby’s appetite.

Hind milk: This is the milk the breast produces during the middle of the feed. It is much thicker and richer and contains the beneficial nutrients and fats that baby needs to develop and grow.

Inverted nipple: The nipple retracts into itself.

Immunity: Protection against infection.

Inflammation: An infected area of redness, warmth and swelling. It will often feel painful. You should consult your healthcare provider, as medication may be required.

IBCLC: International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.

Kangaroo care: A technique often adopted for premature babies, where babies are placed skin to skin. It has been proven to help stimulate feeding and a sense of security.

Lactation: The secretion of milk.

La Leche League: A breastfeeding organisation that provides women with support.

Lactation consultant: Trained professionals who specialise in breastfeeding support.

Lactose: The sugar found in milk.

Lanolin: A healing cream used on cracked nipples.

Latch: The attachment of your baby’s mouth to your breast in order to feed. A good latch is a good seal around the baby’s mouth.

Let down: This is the initial sensation felt when the milk is released from the breast. Sometimes you can feel it (occasionally it may be painful) and sometimes you can’t.

Lipase: The enzyme that breaks down the fat in breast milk.

Leakage: When lactating breasts leak breast milk from the nipple. This tends to happen when the breast is very full (close to feeding time), the breasts are pressed into or the nursing bra is too tight.

Nursing bra: A specially designed bra that enables a woman to breastfeed discreetly with the aid of drop down cups.

Nursing pads: Absorbent pads designed to draw moisture away from lactating breasts.

Nutrition: Taking in healthy food to help aid in growth and development.

Nipple: Protrudes from the areola and releases breast milk.

Nipple shield: A protective plastic cup used to shield the nipple when the baby breastfeeds. Some women use it to aid in protecting the nipple against damage caused by breastfeeding in the early weeks.

Nursing pillow: A specially designed pillow used to support a baby while breastfeeding.

Night feed: Feeding baby during the night.

Mastitis: A painful infection caused by blocked milk ducts. A woman can become very unwell and suffer from flu-like symptoms and should seek medical assistance.

Montgomery glands: Pimple-like in appearance and are found on the areola. They produce oils that lubricate the nipple.

Pumping: Breast milk is drawn from the breast via a breast pump and stored for later use in the fridge or freezer.

Prolactin: A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is responsible for milk production.

Reflux: When a baby spits up what they have just swallowed. Not to be confused with vomiting.

Rooting: The instinctive turn of the head as the baby looks for the breast to feed.

Sleep feeding: Feeding the baby while they are still sleeping.

Tandem breastfeeding: When a mother breastfeeds two children at once.

Thrush: A yeast infection which can occur in the baby’s mouth and spread to the mother’s nipple.

Tongue tie: A condition where the tissue connecting the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth is short and tight. Can restrict a baby’s breastfeeding ability.

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