25 Key Terms Every Breastfeeding Mother Should Know


Grab a cup of tea and some biscuits and let's dive into some jargon you should know as a breastfeeding mother or someone supporting a breastfeeding duo.


1.     OXYTOCIN: AKA "the love hormone". It is responsible for milk ejection. It is also the hormone that makes the uterus contract during labour and also helps it shrink back down after birth.

2.     PROLACTIN: Works hand in hand with Oxytocin and is the hormone responsible for the production of milk.

3.     MILK SUPPLY: The amount of milk your breasts produce. One's supply can be described as low, sufficient or over supply.

4.     COLOSTRUM: First milk produced (usually beginning during pregnancy). It is thick and rich in proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins and is all your baby’s tiny stomach needs in the first few days after birth. It also helps get rid of baby's first poo called Meconium.

5.     MATURE MILK: This is the full breastmilk that usually starts coming in between day 2 and 5. When supply is sufficient and there are no other problems, this is all baby needs to drink until 6 months.

6.     FOREMILK: The thirst-quenching milk that baby gets at the start of a feed. It usually has higher water content and one reason breastfed babies don't need extra water.

7.     HINDMILK: This is the fatty milk that will really help baby gain weight. It is usually creamier than foremilk. Making sure baby stays on long enough to get this milk will also keep her fuller for longer. 

8.     LATCH: The way baby attaches to the breast to get milk. A good latch ensures effective transfer of milk. A poor latch will do the opposite, causing the mother pain and hindering baby's growth.

9.     POSITIONING: This is the way baby is placed to encourage latching. There are many breastfeeding positions including the cross-cradle hold, football hold, sidelying and so many more.



10.   LET-DOWN: When baby's suckling signals for milk ejection this is called "let-down". A slow let-down could frustrate a hungry baby. Conversely, a forceful let-down is usually problematic and linked to over-supply.

11.   ENGORGEMENT: When the breasts fill up and milk isn't adequately removed, it can cause swelling and pain, which is known as engorgement. This is more common when the milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk (when the milk comes in) but it can also happen at anytime during the breastfeeding journey.

12.   MASTITIS : Engorgement or a blocked duct can eventually lead to mastitis, which is an infection caused by inflammation of breast tissue that causes a high fever and usually requires antibiotics to treat. See a medical professional immediately if you think you have this.

13.   TONGUE TIE: A malformation that prevents the tongue from moving properly. A tongue-tied baby could have mild to severe problems latching-on correctly depending on the extent of the malformation. A tongue tie usually has to be cut by a breastfeeding professional. Also check out lip tie, which is another kind of malformation.

14.   GALACTOGOGUES: Substances such as foods and herbs that help boost production of milk e.g. Oats, Fenugreek and Fennel. They can be drunk in teas or smoothies, baked into cookies or taken in pill form. The average woman doesn't need to take anything to boost her supply but they're handy to know about just incase.

15.   ON-DEMAND NURSING: Feeding baby whenever and wherever she shows signs of being hungry without any kind of scheduling or clock-watching.

16.   EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING (EBF): Feeding baby ONLY breastmilk for the first six months as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

17.   EXPRESSING: AKA pumping is extracting breastmilk usually by hand or using a manual/electric breast pump.

18.   GROWTH SPURT: As the name implies, this is a moment of rapid growth in a newborn. They usually occur during the first few days, around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. 

19.   CLUSTER-FEED: This is when baby feeds none-stop for several hours. It is usually linked to a growth spurt. It could feel like baby is constantly attached to you and not getting enough, don't panic! If it helps, get some galactogogues like lactation cookies or smoothies, some water, put your favourite movie or TV show on and enjoy the time with your baby. It will pass before you know it.

20.   NURSING STRIKE: When a baby abruptly stops nursing it is referred to as a nursing strike. It could last between 2 to 4 days and is usually caused by external issues like teething pain, low milk supply or illness. Note that it is very rare for infants under 18 months to self wean and self weaning usually happens gradually. So don't mistake a nursing strike for a sign to wean (especially if this is not part of your plan). Read more about nursing strikes HERE and if the baby is a newborn, read about how to get a newborn back to the breast HERE.

21.   CO-SLEEPING: Generally defined as having baby sleeping in the same room as you. The most popular form is bed-sharing, which is having baby sleep in bed with you. Many breastfed babies end up co-sleeping with their mothers at some point during the journey. It is important to know how to safely co-sleep so as to prevent an accident. Read  more about co-sleeping HERE.



22.   ECOLOGICAL BREASTFEEDING: A strict form of exclusive breastfeeding where all baby's suckling needs are being met at the breast (i.e. on demand nursing, no use of pacifiers or bottles and constant closeness to mother). This method is known to help with child spacing as in most women, it'll delay the return of postpartum fertility.

23.   EXTENDED BREASTFEEDING: Breastfeeding past 6 or 12 months (depending on who you ask). The WHO recommends breastfeeding until 2 years and beyond, as long as it's mutually beneficial. The benefits of breastfeeding don't stop abruptly at 12 months. They continue for as long as breastfeeding lasts.

24.   TANDEM NURSING: Nursing two children at the same time. Usually used when there's an age difference between the nurselings but sometimes used for mums feeding multiples too.

25.   BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT: No breastfeeding peer is alone. A breastfeeding support system includes International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), Breastfeeding Counsellors and Peer Supporters i.e. mums like myself who are passionate about breastfeeding and are dedicated to helping whenever and wherever possible. Your support group also includes your family and friends who ideally should cheer you on and shoulder some of the burden of housework and daily life, especially in the early days of breastfeeding but also if you choose extended breastfeeding.

These are only 25 of a massive list of breastfeeding terms. I'm sure there are so many equally important ones I've left out. If you're reading this and can think of others, please share with us in the comments section. Remember mamas, we're all in this together! We are each other's support system.





PS: Please don't forget to share this post on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and everywhere else you can think of. You can start by pinning the image above. You never know who might benefit from it.