Breastfeeding Glossary

Alveoli
The glandular tissue in the breasts where milk is produced (see image at bottom of page).
 

Antibodies
Proteins made by the immune system which help the body fight off viruses, bacteria and parasites.
 

Cognitive Development
The development of the brain and its functions - including perception, memory and knowledge. Also the ability to think, reason and react.
 

Colostrum
A form of high-protein milk produced by the mammary glands in late pregnancy and the few days after giving birth. Colostrum is also high in carbohydrates and antibodies, and low in fat (as fat can be difficult for newborns to digest). Newborns have very small digestive systems, and colostrum delivers its nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. It has a mild laxative effect, encouraging the passing of the baby's first stool, which is called meconium. The appearance of Colostrum will differ from your regular breastmilk. Colostrum is much thicker than milk and pale yellow in color.

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Engorgement
Swelling and pain in the breasts due to excess milk production. Within 72 hours after you give birth, an abundance of breast milk "comes in" for your baby. As that happens, more blood flows to your breasts and some of the surrounding tissue swells usually causing an uncomfortable fullness, throbbing, and sometimes pain. Engorgement can also be caused by hormonal imbalance (common the first few weeks after giving birth), by missing regular feedings or blocked milk ducts. Blocked milk ducts will often cause a small lump on the breast, it may get red or feel warm. Left untreated a blocked milk duct can cause a serious infection - see "mastitis."

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Keep in mind that engorgement is a positive sign - it means you are producing plenty of milk for your baby. Discomfort usually goes away within 24-48 hours, and nursing your baby will help it go away. Nurse frequently, wear a supportive nursing bra that isn't too tight, express milk in a warm shower, massage the breast while baby is nursing, or apply cold packs for a short period after nursing. Don't apply direct heat unless you need to encourage milk let down - this will also increase blood flow which could make the engorgement discomfort worse. If you're really in pain, talk to your doctor about taking a mild over-the-counter pain reliever.

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Gestation
The length of pregnancy: the period of time from conception (fertilization) to birth, when a woman carries a developing fetus in her uterus. Human gestation is typically 40 weeks; an estimated 260 to 280 days.

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Lactation
The period after child birth when milk is secreted from the mother's breasts. Lactation normally continues until the child is weaned from nursing.

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Lanolin
A naturally-occurring oil in sheep's wool; an emollient with moisturizing properties that can also absorb moisture. Lanolin is commonly used to treat sore, dry nipples while breastfeeding.

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Lanugo
The fine downy hair covering a human fetus; normally shed during the ninth month of gestation.

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L.L.L.I. (La Leche League International)
An international nonprofit organization that distributes information on and promotes breastfeeding. It was founded in 1956 by seven breastfeeding mothers who, for a variety of reasons (often related to social expectations and misinformation) had difficulties with and questions about breastfeeding. The mission of La Leche League is "to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother."

The name comes from the Spanish word "leche" meaning milk. It was inspired by a shrine in St. Augustine, Florida, dedicated to “Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto”, meaning “Our Lady of Happy Delivery and Plentiful Milk”. The name was fitting, since all founders were Catholic.

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Mammary glands
The organs that, in mammals, produce milk for the sustenance of the young; i.e. the female breasts (see image at bottom of page).

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Mastitis
Inflammation of the breast usually due to engorgement. Untreated engorgement puts pressure on the milk ducts, often causing a plugged duct. If it continues unchecked, the plugged duct can become a breast infection, at which point you may have severe pain, and fever or flu-like symptoms.

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Meconium
the earliest stools of an infant. Unlike later feces, meconium is composed of materials ingested during the time the infant spends in the uterus: intestinal epithelial cells, lanugo, mucus, amniotic fluid, bile, and water. Meconium is almost sterile, unlike later feces, is viscous and sticky like tar, and has no odor. It should be completely passed by the end of the first few days of postpartum life, with the stools progressing toward yellow (digested milk).

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MER (milk ejection reflex)
Milk is produced in the glandular tissue (alveoli) of the breasts. The smooth muscle tissue around each tiny milk-producing cell contracts when maternal hormones are released. This contraction propels milk down the milk ducts to the openings in the nipple. This process is called the milk ejection reflex or the letdown. Your baby's cry and touch, nipple stimulation, and sucking all can trigger this hormone release. The majority of milk obtained during breastfeeding, hand expression, or breast pumping occurs during milk ejections, each of which last about 1-2 minutes. Multiple letdowns appear to occur during most breastfeeding sessions.

When the milk is actively ejecting, many women will notice a bit of tingling, especially during the first letdown of the feeding. The other letdowns may be less intense. The breastfeeding mother may simply notice the baby begin to gulp again after seeming to rest at the breast for a few minutes. A mother who is pumping may notice more milk sprays or an increase in the milk flow. When pumping, it is important to ensure that you pump long enough to trigger several letdowns.  From Medela.com

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Milk ducts
The network of passages in the female breast which carry milk from the glands (alveoli) to the nipple.

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Oxytocin
A hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland. Oxytocin stimulates contractions of the uterus for childbirth; it will sometimes be given to begin or speed the labor process. Oxytocin also stimulates breast milk production and the milk ejection/ let-down reflex for breastfeeding.

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Postpartum
The period of time immediately after childbirth - traditionally six to eight weeks. During this time the mother's uterus and hormones are transitioning back to their normal state.

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Preterm
Premature birth, before the standard period of pregnancy is completed - an infant born before 37 weeks gestation.

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Prolactin
A hormone primarily associated with lactation. In breastfeeding, the act of an infant suckling the nipple stimulates the production of prolactin, which fills the breast with milk via a process called lactogenesis, in preparation for the next feed. Oxytocin, another hormone, is also released, which triggers milk let-down.

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Wean(ing)
The gradual process of removing breastmilk (and breastfeeding) from a baby's diet, and introducing foods which will eventually become the adult diet. Sometime babies will just "decide" that they don't want to breastfeed any more, this usually happens when formula or solid foods have already been introduced into the baby's diet. In most cases the mother will decide when she is ready to wean her baby. While some nursing mothers continue for longer periods, many begin to wean their babies off the breast at between 4 and 7 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends breastfeeding for a full year, but returning to work or preferring the flexibility of bottle feeding makes it difficult for many mothers to nurse that long. Each mother should decide for herself when the time is right.

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Below is the anatomy of the human Mammary Gland (female breast)

From Wikipedia.com



This is general information and does not replace the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different, and your baby may not be average. If in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.

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