Milky Matters Blog

A-Z of breastfeeding words

Nikki Adlam

Happy New Year from Jan and Nikki and welcome to our new-look blog, and starting with this from Jan:

When women become pregnant, unless they have studied human biology recently, they are plunged into the mysterious world of other words, and with breastfeeding / human lactation, even more words are introduced.

I've been wondering if a little slightly alternative, though certainly not definitive A-Z of breastfeeding might be interesting, helpful, or even fun to put together and for you to read. This will be an A-Z, but not all at once. I think I'll go with A-C for starters. Here we go:

A for Attachment. This is also interchanged with Latch, and in the 70s, 80s and 90s with Fix. Now, "fixing the baby on" sounds pretty uncomfortable so I'm so glad that's not used any more. I don't really like any of the above as they sound so mechanical and something one should wear a boiler suit for, but a word must be used. How about Breastfeeding? (Tongue in cheek comment). Attachment to breastfeed is all about the efficient and comfortable milk transfer from mum to baby, usually resulting in a well growing baby. Shallow attachment will result in less milk transferred than a deep attachment over the same amount of time for example. Shallow attachment can also lead to difficulty in gaining weight, and the mum’s sore and damaged nipples, though not always funnily enough.

B for Breastfeed. This is what babies do to drink the milk their wonderful mummies provide. Obvious statement? Well we also say that mums breastfeed. I will quote Canadian paediatrician Dr Jack Newman here, "Babies breastfeed, mothers and others bottle feed". His point is that babies are the active partners in the breastfeeding relationship with the mother. Mums find out very quickly that they cannot make a baby breastfeed if they don't want to at the time. Stimulating the palate with a bottle teat will encourage a bottle fed baby to feed however. Food for thought there.

C for Colostrum. This fluid is made in mums' breasts from about weeks 16 - 19 of pregnancy. It is packed with precious immunoglobulins and anti-bodies to stave off infections. It is there to give babies a huge protective inoculation at the start of life, so available in tiny quantities to suit babies’ tiny stomachs, but there’s lots of it to suit the frequent feeds that newborn babies need. It is also great for its laxative effect on babies, helping them to pass those sticky black meconium poos and make prolonged jaundice (see “J” in later post) less likely. The release of colostrum is essential for effective milk production to begin, so especially if the baby has difficulty in attaching to breastfeed, it is so important get the colostrum moving through the mum’s breasts by hand expressing very frequently to really kick-start the process. When weaning off the mum’s breast happens naturally by feeds being reduced over time, her breastmilk returns to a colostrum-like state, and so the last feeds the baby/child has can be described as another huge inoculation against infection. I love that!   

More in a couple of days. Exciting stuff featuring D for diet, E for Expressing breastmilk, and F for Fat!