In order to have success breastfeeding, it’s import to have access to information, support, and assistance.
Breastfeeding terms cover a wide range of topics and details about the physiology and anatomy of breastfeeding. This breastfeeding glossary will help you navigate common terminology while you research breastfeeding and its effects on both mother and baby.
antibody – A substance that protects against infection.
areola – The circular area of pigmented skin that surrounds the nipple.
colostrum – A concentrated fluid secreted by the breast at the end of pregnancy and shortly after childbirth that provides nutrition as well as protection against disease.
engorgement – Fullness, swelling, and enlargement of the breasts.
foremilk – Low-fat milk that leaves the breast first during breastfeeding or pumping; the longer the time periods between breast drainage, the lower in fat the foremilk becomes.
hindmilk – Higher-fat milk that comes later during a breastfeeding or pumping as the breast becomes more fully drained.
hormone – A chemical messenger produced in one part of the body that affects another part of the body.
lactation – The action of producing and secreting milk.
milk ejection reflex – The reflex that causes milk to flow to the nipples and be ejected from the breast (aka let-down, milk release, and milk ejection).
oxytocin – A hormone produced in the brain, released during labor, nipple stimulation, and at other times (such as during a massage); it causes alveolar contraction, milk release (ejection) and uterine contractions.
progesterone – A hormone produced by the placenta in large amounts during pregnancy that stimulates breast development and inhibits production of large volumes of milk.
prolactin – A hormone produced in the brain that stimulates breast development and affects milk production.
Breastfeeding support and advice is plentiful, and various professional and mother-to-mother volunteer organizations are available to help.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) – Also called a “lactation consultant,” an IBCLC is a credentialed breastfeeding support professional who has passed a board exam after completing many lactation-specific educational courses and has worked many hours with moms and babies to help with lactation issues. IBCLCs are experienced in helping mothers to breastfeed comfortably and can help address a wide range of breastfeeding concerns. Many IBCLCs are also nurses, doctors, speech therapists, dieticians, or other health professionals. Ask your hospital or birthing center for the name of a lactation consultant who can help you. To find an IBCLC, visit the Find a Lactation Consultant Directory.
Breastfeeding Peer Counselor or Educator (CLC OR CBE) – A Breastfeeding Peer Counselor or Educator teaches others about the health effects of breastfeeding and helps women with basic breastfeeding challenges and questions. As a “peer,” they have first-hand experience breastfeeding their own baby. Some breastfeeding educators have letters after their names like CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) or CBE (Certified Breastfeeding Educator). CLCs and CBEs may be helpful when addressing basic concerns and problems, and by providing basic breastfeeding support. Find a peer counselor through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, La Leche League, or Breastfeeding USA, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 to speak directly with a breastfeeding peer counselor.
Doula – A doula (doo-la) is professionally trained and experienced in providing social support to birthing families during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and at home during the first few days or weeks after birth. Doulas help women physically and emotionally, and those who are trained in breastfeeding support may be able to help you be more successful with breastfeeding after birth.
Physician – Pediatricians are medical doctors who focus on treating babies, children, and teens. Obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) are medical doctors who focus on treating women’s reproductive health issues before, during, and after pregnancy. Many physicians also receive basic lactation training.
Certified Nurse-Midwife – A Certified Nurse-Midwife is a healthcare professional who provides care to women throughout their lifespan with a specific focus on pregnancy, labor, and birth. Many midwives also receive basic lactation training and can provide breastfeeding support.
La Leche League International – La Leche is the world’s leading breastfeeding organization of mothers helping mothers. Call 800-LA-LECHE (800-525-3243) to find a group that meets in your area and a local number to call for advice, or visit them online a www.llli.org
Breastfeeding USA – Breastfeeding USA is an organization of breastfeeding counselors who provides evidence-based breastfeeding information and offer mother-to-mother support. Visit them online at breastfeedingusa.org.
Additional organizations that support and promote breastfeeding are:
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American College of Nurse Midwives
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
- Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA)
- La Leche League, International
- National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy
- UNICEF United States Breastfeeding Committee
- United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA)
- Wellstart International
- World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
- World Breastfeeding Week
- World Health Organization
National Breastfeeding Programs in the US include:
- Healthy People
- HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding
- National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign
- National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
US Government Resources include:
- Business Case for Breastfeeding
- CDC Breastfeeding Resources
- Maternal and Child Health Bureau
- National Women’s Health Information Center
- Nutrition During Pregnancy Resource List for Consumers
- Resources for WIC participants
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- 50 State Summary of Breastfeeding Laws
Additional breastfeeding websites include:
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
- Biological Nurturing
- Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery
- Breastfeeding and the Law
- Breastfeeding Made Simple
- Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed)
- MOST (Mothers of Super Twins)
- San Diego Country Breastfeeding Coalition
- Stanford University
- The Swedish Nursing Mothers Support Group
- The Adoptive Breastfeeding Resources Website
Blogs that focus on breastfeeding:
Ameda offers video support for breastfeeding.
One Mom’s Experience
Breastfeeding Educational Series
- American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3): e827-841. Available at www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-3552
- Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Trikalinos TA, Lau J. A summary of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s evidence report on breastfeeding in developed countries. Breastfeed Med, 2009;4(SI ):S 17-30
This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different. If in doubt, contact your physician or healthcare provider.