The Language of Breastfeeding Glossary

As you learn more about breastfeeding, you may come across some unfamiliar terms. Here is a handy list of definitions for terms often found in breastfeeding support materials.

This  glossary of common breastfeeding terms is a great resource for when you come across unfamiliar terms while learning about feeding your baby.

Areola — The darker skinned area around the nipple.

Colostrum — In the first few days after delivery, before “mature” milk comes in, your body produces this liquid that is loaded with calories and infection-fighting proteins. Although the breast secretes only a small amount of this thick, yellowish fluid, it is very important for your newborn.

Engorgement — A few days after giving birth (following the colostrum period), your body produces the “mature” milk. Because the breasts become very full of milk (engorged) it can be uncomfortable for the mother. However, this goes away once the body better regulates milk production. It can also happen if the child suddenly nurses less than usual (for various reasons), and the breasts are producing more milk than the lessened demand.

Hindmilk — This is the higher-in-fat breastmilk that is available at the end of the feeding. The cells within breasts (alveoli) produce milk all the time. Between feedings, breastmilk stays in the milk ducts within the breasts, and the fat globules in milk tend to stick to the walls of the alveoli and to each other. When  milk is being continually produced, it moves towards the nipple, leaving more of the fat near the back of the breast. At the next feeding, the baby will receive the lower-fat foremilk first and will get the milk with extra fat (hindmilk) toward the end of the feeding. While mom sometimes thinks that the baby is not getting enough hindmilk, there’s no reason to worry. Moms don't have to be concerned about this distinction - simply feed your baby on demand and trust the baby is getting the nutrients he needs.

IBCLC — This is an excellent resource for breastfeeding moms. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants provide assistance for all breastfeeding issues, including the most challenging ones. The IBCLC is an international group that ensures a consistent standard throughout the world. To become a member of the IBCLC, a person must pass an exam in addition to many hours of clinical experience working with breastfeeding moms and babies.

Lanolin — This cream is a savior to many breastfeeding mothers who experience sore, cracked nipples. It can soothe and protect, but make sure that you only use a pure form of lanolin to prevent allergies to the toxins that come in impure forms. Lansinoh® HPA® Lanolin is the safest, purest lanolin available.

Latching On — Latching on is when the baby takes the nipple and areola properly into his mouth to begin nursing. Proper positioning is critical (see below) because your nipple needs to touch the roof of your baby’s mouth to stimulate him to latch on, suck and swallow.

Let-Down (milk ejection reflex) — Let it flow! This is the process where the brain tells the body to produce milk and make it available in the breast. Let-down occurs when the baby’s sucking action on the breast sends a message to the brain. The message stimulates the hypothalamus gland, which in turn stimulates the pituitary gland. Hormones are then released that act on special cells in the breast to produce the milk and send it toward the nipple where it is available for the baby.

Lipase — An enzyme that breaks down fat in breastmilk. In rare instances, some women may have it in higher quantities in their breastmilk, and it can cause breastmilk to develop a bad smell or taste when frozen.

Nursing bra — These are considered essential for nursing moms to make it easier for her to breastfeed. Nursing bras typically have either flaps on the cups or can be pulled to one side so you can make the breast available to the baby without taking off the bra.

Nursing pads (Also called breast pads) — Little round pads that fit inside the bra to absorb any leaking breastmilk, keeping the skin and clothing dry. Lansinoh makes Lansinoh® Disposable Nursing Pads and Lansinoh® Ultra Soft Nursing Pads.

Positioning — The way a baby is held or situated when breastfeeding. There are different breastfeeding positions, and you may have to experiment to determine which one is most effective and comfortable for you and your baby.

Prolactin — A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is responsible for milk production within the alveoli in the breast.  During pregnancy, prolactin makes the breasts grow, and after giving birth, it stimulates the milk production. Prolactin is made in response to nipple stimulation when the baby suckles at the breast. Low prolactin levels can affect the mother's milk supply, in which case prescription drugs are often used.

Pumping — The method of extracting breastmilk with the help of an external pump. There are both manual and electrical breast pumps ( such as Lansinoh® Signature Pro™ Double Electric Breast Pump and Lansinoh® Manual Breast Pump). Pumping enables mothers to provide breastmilk for a caregiver to give to the baby while mom is away (for example, working). Pumping is also often used to stimulate production in a mother who has a low milk supply, to induce lactation or relieve engorgement. Many moms with pre-term babies have to pump their milk since the baby is too small to feed at the breast.

Relactation — When a mother can resume breastfeeding after a period of not producing milk, without giving birth in between, by stimulating the nipples by a breast pump and/or baby. A mother typically seeks relactation if she has to stop breastfeeding for a while (e.g., for medical reasons) or if a formula-feeding mother later decides she wants to breastfeed. The less time that’s elapsed since the mother ceased to breastfeed, the better her chances are to develop a full milk supply.

Rooting Reflex — The rooting reflex occurs when touching your breast to the center of the baby's lips or stroking his cheek causing the baby to open his mouth and turn his head to one side seemingly looking for the breast.