Breastfeeding Dictionary: Nursing Terms You Should Know — Successful Breastfeeding Series (Part II)
Welcome to part two of the Successful Breastfeeding Series! One of the biggest stressors concerning breastfeeding is having no idea what is normal or if you are doing it right. So many of the women I have talked to have gone as far as giving up on breastfeeding because they thought they were failing when what they were experiencing was completely normal. Knowing these nursing terms beforehand can save you a lot of stress, overwhelm, and calls or visits to the doctor! This knowledge will also make it easier to explain or answer questions when you need some medical advice/assistance. These definitions are all super basic and don’t cover the entire concept of each term (as some are very complex or are medical terms which I am not qualified to speak on) — I wanted this to be an easy to digest, quick reference point.
Common Nursing Terms You Are Likely To Experience
These nursing terms are the more common ones. Many of them are universal, but I am going to also include some that most (not all) will likely experience as well.
- Breast Pump – A machine you can hook up to your breasts that will simulate a child’s suckle and cause your body to express milk. Not everyone responds to breast pumps, and the amount of milk that comes out due to pumping is not a good indicator of how much milk your body is producing. There are many different kinds, and many insurance companies cover the cost of certain pumps. (I got a Medela Pump In Style through my insurance company).
- Cluster Feeding – A period of time where your baby, who is experiencing a growth spurt, will nurse approximately every 20-30 minutes for 4-6 hours with very short breaks between (times may vary). It will seem like you can’t possibly be producing enough milk to satisfy your child, but this is their instincts causing your body to produce more milk to meet their upcoming needs. It is totally normal, and supplementing with formula during this time can stop your supply from keeping up with your child’s needs. As long as baby is having enough wet/dirty diapers and is gaining weight/hitting milestones, that generally means he or she is getting enough milk (always check with a medical professional for your specific situation).
- Clogged/Plugged Duct – When you have some kind of blockage that causes your milk to stop flowing all the way through your milk duct. This is a common issue, but not everyone experiences it. It can cause a lump (small or large), and is usually resolved through heat, massaging, and frequent nursing. Be careful as this can lead to mastitis if it goes unresolved.
- Engorgement – When your boobs are very full with milk. This may feel hard, uncomfortable, or painful for some women.
- Galactagogues – Certain foods that seem to correlate with increased milk production when eaten. Some examples are oats/oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, flaxseed meal, Mother’s Milk tea, blackstrap molasses, Fenugreek, and many others). Upon further research you may find they are only effective if an actual low supply issue is prevalent.
- Hand Express – Using hand techniques to manually release milk rather than a pump. Some women respond to this differently than pumping. This can be especially helpful for women who are engorged or with oversupply issues to release some milk until they are comfortable without emptying the breast and cuing your body to produce more. It should not hurt.
- IBCLC – An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Different than a regular lactation consultant (LC). They are required to complete a certain amount of education and experience and are generally the better choice when you are having questions or issues (in my personal opinion).
- Inverted Nipples – When your nipples are not particularly sticking out and baby has trouble latching. This can usually be easily remedied by using a nipple shield for a period of time.
- Latch – The position of baby’s mouth on the breast when nursing.
- Let Down – When your milk is released through the nipple from the milk ducts. It can cause a tingling (or similar) sensation for some women, and others feel nothing at all.
- Low Supply – When you aren’t producing enough to keep baby satisfied solely through your breastmilk.
- Milk Intake – Refers to the amount of milk baby is transferring from boob to belly.
- Nipple Shield – A silicone nipple that acts as a barrier between the baby and the breast. It can help with different issues such as nipple inversion or severe pain while nursing, and an IBCLC can tell you if/when to start using one as well as how to wean from it. There are many different designs and brands, but I have always preferred these ones because they were easy for me to hold in place while still allowing my son to have some skin to skin contact.
- Oversupply – When a mom produces enough milk to feed her child and still has some left over. If you are able to feed baby directly from the breast and still pump an additional bottle during the day, this qualifies even though it is not a severe case. You are making plenty of milk to satisfy your little one, congratulations!
- Paced Feeding – A method of feeding baby a bottle that simulates drinking from the breast. This helps support a strong breastfeeding relationship while still being able to offer bottles. Youtube will do a much better job of showing you than I would do of explaining!
- Supplementing – Offering a bottle of formula (or milk depending on child’s age) to make sure that baby is getting enough to eat. Usually done when someone has a low supply or doesn’t want to breastfeed exclusively.
- Weighted Feeds – When baby is weighed before and after each feed using a sensitive scale to see how much milk was consumed. This will help determine whether you are producing enough milk or whether baby is able to nurse efficiently, and is usually done at baby’s doctor’s office or a nursing support group.
Nursing Terms that are More Rare, but Still Relevant
These nursing terms are less common. They don’t affect everyone, but it is still good to keep them on your radar so that you can be aware of the signs and symptoms in case you do become affected. Knowing these nursing terms will help you keep calm and give you a starting point.
- High Lipase – Lipase is an enzyme. When there is too much of it in breastmilk it can cause a soapy or sour taste. Although it is safe to drink, some babies refuse it due to the taste. This can be remedied by scalding the milk, where you heat it before storing (but you will have to research the process as I have no experience with it!).
- Lip Tie – When the frenulum between baby’s upper lip and upper gums is too tight, preventing baby from being able to put his or her lip in the correct position for a good latch. Can cause pain for mom or clicking sound, and be corrected by cutting or lasering.
- Mastitis – An infection in the breast tissue caused by clogged milk ducts or bacteria. Can have redness at infection site, a hardness or lump, and flu-like symptoms. Generally treated with antibiotics, frequent nursing, and heated massaging (as per your doctor). Check out this post if you want to read about my experience with it!
- Milk Blisters/Bleb – A blister or white dot on the nipple, caused by milk building up behind a thin layer of skin that is blocking the milk duct. This is a common nursing problem that can be the result of a few different causes.
- Nipple Vasospasms – A painful white spot on the nipple due to lack of proper blood flow. Blood vessels spasm, cause blanching of the skin, and can be painful.
- Tongue Tie – When the frenulum under baby’s tongue (connected to the bottom of the mouth) is too tight, preventing the tongue from protruding past the lip or too far out of the mouth. This causes problems with latching/nursing, but can be remedied by cutting or lasering. Can cause pain for mom or clicking sound.
Define Your Struggle
What are you struggling with most on your breastfeeding journey so far? Are there any nursing terms or concepts I missed that confused you or gave you trouble? If you are a veteran breastfeeder, I’d love to hear any input you have on the nursing terms you’d have liked to know beforehand or would like to pass on to the mom at home in her first week struggling. Let’s make this a community of support and helpfulness!
Free Breastmilk Storage Cheat Sheet
All the information you need on storing breastmilk so that when it comes time to use it, you know it is safe to drink!