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Breastfeeding Glossary

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Breastfeeding Nursing Milk Lactation

Women new to breastfeeding can feel lost with all of the new vocabulary that is used to discuss this subject. Below is a glossary of some frequently used terms in relation to breastfeeding.


Absence of lactation (milk production) following giving birth.

Almost exclusive breastfeeding

A breastfeeding method in which the baby receives most nutrition from breast milk, though there may be some supplements involved in feedings.


An action in which babies control the flow of milk by squeezing a nipple (either a mother's nipple or the nipple of a bottle) with his or her gums.


Swelling of the breast due to lactation (milk production). Engorgement can be relieved by the expulsion of breast milk such as by breastfeeding or expressing milk.

Exclusive breastfeeding

A breastfeeding method in which the baby receives all nutrition from breast milk.

Expressing milk

Squeezing milk from the breast. Many women use a breast pump for expressing milk. Milk is usually stored in bottles which can be used in future feedings.

Failure to thrive

A situation in which a baby, despite getting adequate nutrition and calories, fails to physically grow.


A term used to describe the instances when a baby feeds either at the breast or from a bottle.


Pre-packaged liquid designed to meet a baby's nutritional and caloric needs. Can be used exclusively to feed a baby or in conjunction with breast milk.


A condition in which there is an excessive flow of milk. Can continue after a baby has been weaned and a mother would like breastfeeding to cease.


A toxic substance, often bacteria, in a mother's milk.

Induced lactation

A situation in which lactation (the production of breast milk) is stimulated in women who have not recently been pregnant or given birth.

Infant formula

A type of formula designed precisely for the nutritional needs of infants.


The process of milk production in a woman's body. Involves hormones as well as the glands and tissues of the breast, among other things. Usually only stimulated during pregnancy or following childbirth.


Breast pain. Can be cyclical (related to the menstrual cycle) or non-cyclical (not related to the menstrual cycle).


Infection of the breast. Often follows breastfeeding as bacteria can enter the nipple.


Another term for feeding, though often used only to denote feedings as the breast.

Partial breastfeeding

A breastfeeding method in which the baby receives some nutrition from breast milk and some from supplements involved in feedings.


Process by which milk is drawn into a baby's mouth with a vertical tongue movement and little jaw movement. This is primarily used in bottle feeding.


Process by which milk is drawn into a baby's mouth via rhythmic licking and an opening and closing of the jaw. This is primarily used in breastfeeding.


A condition characterised by an overgrowth of candida (yeast) either in the baby's mouth or the mother's nipples. Anti-fungal drops or mouth gel can treat thrush in a baby's mouth. Anti-fungal creams are available to treat thrush on the skin.

Token breastfeeding

A breastfeeding method in which minimal nutrition is received from breast milk.

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