Breastfeeding Glossary

Welcome to our All About Breastfeeding blog series in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month 2017! Throughout August we aim to educate and inspire you with a wealth of information on a range of breastfeeding topics as we celebrate this most important cause. As you put your love and dedication into nurturing and nourishing your baby, we hope this resource provides helpful tips and enlightening knowledge that encourages you on your breastfeeding journey!

When you’re new to the world of breastfeeding, there are a lot of terms that may be foreign to you. We’re breaking down all the words and phrases you may hear or read about when you’re navigating your own breastfeeding journey in our Breastfeeding Glossary.

Breastfeeding Glossary

Alveoli: Glandular tubes that appear in bundles and secrete breast milk into milk ducts.

Areola: The dark circle that surrounds the nipple.

Colostrum: Thick, sticky, yellowy “pre-milk” that is full of protein, vitamins and antibodies to sustain a newborn for her first few days of life.

Breast Pump: A device that manually or electrically helps new moms express breast milk into bottles or bags. The pump is connected to the mother’s breast with breast shields called flanges. Many moms pump to stimulate milk production or to have milk to serve their babies when they are separated.

Breastfeeding Positions: There are various ways to hold a baby while nursing known as breastfeeding positions. Some common breastfeeding positions include cradle, cross-cradle, football hold, side-lying and dangle.

Cluster Feeding: Frequent feedings within a short amount of time. Cluster feedings are often helpful at night to satiate a baby and help her sleep longer.

Engorgement: Fullness of the breasts with breast milk marked by hardened breasts, swelling, and sometimes pain. Engorgement can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. Expressing breast milk through nursing or pumping is the best way to relieve engorgement.

Breastfeeding GlossaryExclusive Breastfeeding: Feeding a baby only breast milk, which is advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics for at least the first six months of a baby’s life. Continued breastfeeding is recommended for one year and beyond as well.

Flat Nipple: A nipple that lays flush against the breast even when stimulated.

Fore-milk: The early milk during a feeding that contains more sugary lactose and less fat.

Hind-milk: As a feeding progresses and breasts become emptier more fat is released into the breast milk. This is known as hind-milk.

Inverted Nipple: A nipple that retracts inward towards the breast even when stimulated.

Lactation: Another word for breastfeeding.

Lactation Consultant: A trained specialist who supports new moms as they learn to breastfeed and navigate breastfeeding issues.

Lactose: A sugar found in breast milk and other dairy products.

Latch: The connection between your baby’s mouth and your areola. A good latch includes a wide mouth position over as much of the areola has possible, a cupped tongue and protruding lips that sit on top of the breast.

Let-Down: Also known as Milk Ejection Reflex (MER), this reflex stimulates the flow of milk from milk ducts out through the breasts. Let-downs are often undetectable by moms but occur within a few minutes after nursing begins.

Mastitis: An infection of the breast either from a plugged milk duct or bacteria that enters through the nipple. Mastitis can cause breasts to feel hard, sore and painful.

Milk Ducts: Channels that carry breast milk from the tissues where it is secreted (called alveoli) to the nipples.

Milk Supply: This refers to the availability of breast milk, which is based on a supply and demand stimulus. The more the breast is stimulated and then emptied, the more milk will be produced.

Montgomery glands: Bumps on the areola that secrete anti-microbial oil that lubricate and protect the nipples. It is possible that the secretion from Montgomery glands smell like a mother’s amniotic fluid and help newborns find their mother’s nipples for feeding.

Nipple Confusion: The idea that babies may have a hard time transitioning between breasts, artificial nipples (such as bottle nipples) and pacifiers.

Nursing Bra: A specially-designed bra that allows easy access to breasts to simplify nursing. Nursing bras may have nursing clasps with drop-down cups, slide-over cups or front-closures.

Plugged Ducts: A blockage in a milk duct that can lead to an infection known as mastitis. To help ease a plugged duct, use a warm compress and massage the area.

Rooting: A baby’s act of feeling around for her mother’s breast by turning her head and opening and closing her mouth (as if she’s looking for the nipple). Rooting is a sign of your baby’s hunger and often occurs when a baby smells breast milk.

Thrush: A yeast infection marked by white patches on the tongue that can spread back and forth between mothers and babies during breastfeeding. It is caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

Sources: KellyMom, La Leche League, Belly Belly, Breastfeeding Partners, Parents and Breast Advice


Leading Lady’s All About Breastfeeding blog series serves to educate and inspire new moms with information on a range of breastfeeding topics during the month of August in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month. This resource guide of helpful tips, breastfeeding advice, and research-based information supports our mission to raise awareness for breastfeeding and motivate moms on their breastfeeding journey.


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