- Dec 7, 2023
We keep emphasising how each breastfeeding journey is unique – and it is true – but you’ll find many words and phrases starting to make their way into your vocabulary. You'll share these with everyone who breastfeeds or is part of that journey in other ways. You see, breastfeeding, like most particular fields, has its own language. Understanding this language will help guide you through your research so that you can make the best decisions for you two!
Some of the lingo is self-explanatory, and some might be new and confusing. Below, we’ve compiled a list of breastfeeding terms with definitions every mum will benefit knowing. Share & save this handy guide for later on!
Areola: The areola is the round pigmentation surrounding your nipple.
Alveoli: The small cluster of cells or glands that produce and secrete milk.
Baby-led weaning: Skipping spoon-feeding purees and letting baby feed themselves finger foods right from the start.
Biological nursing: A laid back breastfeeding position. This is usually the first one women try, as if baby was placed on your chest or tummy directly after birth, all being well they will instinctively breast crawl and aim to start nursing.
Block feeding: Managing your milk supply to match your baby’s demand. Block feeding leaves milk inside your breast for a longer period, so that your body won’t think it needs to keep producing at such a high rate. Only feeding from one breast for a time period.
Blocked milk ducts: When the milk ducts become clogged or blocked and milk is unable to flow freely. This condition may lead to mastitis if left unresolved.
Breast crawl: A baby’s instinct to move toward the nipple and suckle.
Breast pump: A suction-based pump to draw milk from your breasts. Can be a manual hand pump or electric, single, or double, or better yet wireless like this one!
Breast shield: Part of your pump that connect to your breast. It’s important to get this bit right, as the wrong size may cause unduly pain and make your pumping journey harder than it needs to be! Have a look at our handy guide for choosing your own breast shield.
Breastfeeding aggression: Baby becomes aggravated immediately when brought to breast. Reasons may include changes in their suckling capabilities, overactive let down, they’re not hungry and the world interests them more, unpleasant memories, wrong position, slow let down, or even that they’re just feeling poorly. You’re not only a mum, but you’re also a P.I. too!
Burp: Just like you need to burp when you’ve had a carbonated drink, baby may have swallowed some air while suckling. It relieves the pressure, you know?
Cabbage leaf: An old wives’ tale that works! Use as a compress on your breast to reduce swelling. Cabbage leaves contain great anti-inflammatory compounds when applied to engorged breasts. They also feel nice and cool, especially if you keep your cabbage in the fridge.
Colostrum: A thick, creamy, yellow substance that is produced by the breast post birth and for the first 3 or so days after the baby is born. 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.
Contaminants: Most of what you put in your body will be present in your breastmilk. Whilst many medications say to avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding, this is usually because they haven’t been studied enough to know there is no negative side effects to you or baby. Most things, like alcohol, disappear from your system within 4-5 hours but many remain, so keep an eye on what you ingest and when you need to breastfeed. Especially keep this in mind during the flu season as some common medications should not be used simultaneously while nursing.
Cooper’s ligaments: The ligaments that support the breast tissue. Good support to your breasts is important as they grow full of milk to prevent sagging later on.
Check out: Breastfeeding kit for new moms
Cluster feeding: When your baby wants a lot of food in a short amount of time. Usually occurs prior to a growth spurt.
Clutch hold (or “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.
Cracked nipples: The reality of many breastfeeding mums. Try Lanolin or a nipple shield.
Cradle hold: 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. A nursing pillow may be helpful here.
Duct: A passageway that stores and carries milk from the alveoli to the nipple to be suckled.
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER): an abrupt emotional "drop" that occurs in some women just before milk release and continues for not more than a few minutes. The brief negative feelings range in severity from wistfulness to self-loathing, and appear to have a physiological cause. Have a chat with your PCP if you think this is an issue for you!
Engorgement: When the breast becomes sore and swollen. This is a result of the breast being too full of milk, and in worst case scenario may lead to mastitis.
Exclusive pumping: Bottle-feeding pumped breastmilk for baby.
Exhaustion: The feeling of extreme fatigue when your baby wants you 24/7 and you want to sleep.
Expressed breast milk (“EBM”): When you pump or hand express to produce breast milk.
Extended breastfeeding: Nursing a child longer than a year.
Feeding on demand: Baby is fed when they are hungry. Feeding is not timed to a clock, but to your baby’s appetite.
Flat nipple: The nipple does not protrude. Different from inverted nipple.
Flanged lips: When your baby’s lips are extended, open and slightly curled forming an oval shape. Sign of a good latch is flanged lips.
Foremilk & Hindmilk: Foremilk is the initial milk produced at the beginning of feeding. This is waterier and quenches their thirst quickly. Hindmilk is the end-milk produced, thicker and richer, full of nutrients and fats baby needs.
Formula (also “breastmilk substitute”): Chemically derived and synthesised cow or plant-based milk with added fats and nutrients, which is dehydrated to form a powder. When mixed with water it mimics breast milk. This is for mothers who are unable, or choose not to, breastfeed their baby.
Frenulum: The membrane or piece of tissue in your mouth that joins the upper lip to your gums. Also, the piece that joins your tongue to the inner edge of your jaw.
Full night’s sleep: Unexplained phenomena.
Galactagogues: Foods, supplements and medicines that may increase your milk supply. Some of these include whole grains such as oats, broccoli, chickpeas, and fennel. Some women swear by lactation teas, for example.
IBCLC: International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant.
Inverted nipple: The nipple retracts into itself. Breastfeeding may be more difficult for you.
Kangaroo care: Skin to skin contact with baby. Developed to help premature babies grow and prosper but proven to help all babies in all circumstances: it helps stimulate feeding, produce oxytocin, and helps baby to regulate their body temp too!
Learn more: Benefits of skin-to-skin contact
Lactation consultant: Trained professionals who specialise in breastfeeding support.
LAM (Lactation Amenorrhea Method): Using breastfeeding as your method of contraception. Please note that this only works if you EXLUSIVELY breastfeed, so it’s usually a short term birth control method.
Lanolin: A healing cream used on cracked nipples. Not suitable for vegans.
Latch: Baby’s mouth attaching to your breast. A good latch is a good seal around the baby’s mouth. Think a double layer sandwich – how do you need to manoeuvre to get that into your mouth? Same idea for baby on breast!
Leakage: The flow of milk when you don’t want it to happen. Leakage is more likely if your breasts are full and it’s close to feeding, or your bra is too tight. Sometimes it can also be an involuntary reaction to a child crying, for example. Keep those nursing pads handy!
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.
Let down pains: The potentially pins and needles to burning/aching sensations in your breasts as milk is let down.
Lip tie: When the piece of tissue behind your baby’s upper lip (frenulum) is too thick or stiff, they can inhibit the upper lip from moving freely.
Liquid gold: This is a direct referral to colostrum’s yellow-y golden hues.
Lopsided: Your breasts once they start producing milk.
Mastitis: An inflammation of the breast tissue, usually caused by an infection, often identified by flu-like symptoms and a rash.
Milk blister: When a blocked duct appears close to the skin on your nipple and cells form over the top of it making a bubble or a blister.
Montgomery glands: Those pesky little bumps on the areola. Mostly they produce oils that lubricate and clean the nipple and areola. Interestingly, this substance is also somewhat antibacterial.
Nipple confusion: Baby’s latch changes due to swapping between bottle and breast.
Nursing aversion (also “breastfeeding agitation”): Sometimes, mama, you can start feeling aversion to breastfeeding. Don’t panic, this can be hormonal or stress based. It’ll pass, and if not, it’s a good idea to see to your options!
Nursing bra: A specially designed bra that enables a woman to breastfeed more comfortably.
Nursing strike: Your previously well-nursed baby refuses to latch on at all. This can be scary, but #1 thing is to feed your baby and #2 is to protect your supply. Nursing strikes are almost always a temporary reaction to an external factor (your soap, new schedule, stress, sickness…).
Nutrition: Breastmilk is good for your baby, but this one is written down with you in mind, mama! Your body is under a lot of stress to produce milk for your baby. And keep a water bottle nearby as you nurse, because hydration is key here!
Learn more: Breastfeeding diet - What to eat while nursing
Nipple: Protrudes from the areola and releases breast milk through multiple ducts (holes).
Nipple shield: A protective silicone cap used over nipple while baby nurses. Can help prevent or alleviate nipple damage caused by baby’s hard latch (or teeth).
Nursing pillow: A specially designed pillow used to support a baby while breastfeeding.
Night feed: Feeding baby during the night.
Overactive let down: This is the milk gushing from your breasts, and it can complicate feeding for baby. They must coordinate breathing, suckling, and swallowing, and if mouth is full of milk all the time, it’s hard to switch over.
Oxytocin: A hormone that is released from your brain when you breastfeed. Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone. Cuddling, smelling, and thinking of your little one can release oxytocin and make you feel good.
Plugged Ducts (also “Clogged Ducts” or “Milk Stasis”): Backup in a milk duct resulting from milk being produced faster than it is expressed. This can lead to engorged breasts and at worst, mastitis.
Pumping: Using a double or single electric breast pump to draw milk from breast for later use. Or to increase milk production (‘power pumping’), or to release pressure. Remember, the more you pump, the more milk you will produce!
Learn more: Lola&Lykke® award-winning Smart Electric Breast Pump.
Pumping bra: Like a nursing bra but for your pumping convenience! Pay attention to how much they can support, as a pump like the Lola&Lykke electric breastfeeding pumping machine weighs around 500g with a full bottle!
Prolactin: A hormone responsible for milk production.
Reflux: When a baby spits up what they have just swallowed. Not to be confused with vomiting.
Reverse cycling: Baby is more active and eats more during night than during the day. Alternatively baby eats less when mum is gone and more when she is back (from work, for example).
Rooting: The instinctive turn of the head and nuzzling as the baby looks for the breast/nipple to feed.
Sleep feeding: Feeding the baby while they are sleeping. Usually, you would manage this by feeding them from either side or hovering above to keep them sleeping.
Spray: We’ve all experienced the milk spray. You uncover the boob, are stimulated, or pre- or mid-feed, and the milk just flies.
Tandem breastfeeding: When a mother breastfeeds two children at once.
Teething: This one is fairly self-explanatory. It’s the teeth. We can’t avoid them, but this can be most unpleasant.
Thrush: A yeast infection can occur where moisture is trapped and unable to dry/air properly. Common in baby’s mouth and may spread to mum's nipple and vice versa.
Tongue tie: A condition where the tissue connecting the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth is short and tight. This can restrict a baby’s breastfeeding ability as they may not be able to properly latch.
Vasospasm: Blood vessels supplying the nipple go into spasm and reduce the blood flow to the nipple. This affects the flow of milk from the nipple, and can cause an intense feeling of pain in the nipple for mum.
Weaning: Baby moves from breast milk to other sources of nourishment.
Wonder weeks: Ten leaps in mental development that every child goes through in their first twenty months of life. Baby can be fussy and need more food during these times.
Let us know below if we missed anything! What do you think are the most important words and phrases for successful breastfeeding journey?
by Lola&Lykke Team
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