Breast Milk Glossary

Breast Milk GlossaryIf you are new to breastfeeding, there may be some terms that are unfamiliar to you.  Breastfeeding is unlike any experience a new mom faces.  While it is sometimes challenging, it can also be incredibly rewarding and the most precious, bonding opportunity you’ll have with your baby.  Today we’re sharing some basic terms you’ll need to know as a new breastfeeding mom in our breast milk glossary.

Latch:  Your baby’s latch is one of the most important steps to ensuring productive, successful breastfeeding and helps avoid sore nipples.  Latch refers to the way your baby attaches to your nipple.  A good latch allows for suction without pain.  The lips should curl above and below the nipple as the nipple faces upward into the mouth.  You may need to help your baby latch in the first few weeks of breastfeeding by opening her mouth or squeezing some milk onto your nipple to give her a taste.  After several weeks, most babies get the hang of it and turn directly toward the nipple with a beautiful latch.  If you have trouble achieving a good latch, seek help from a lactation consultant.

Let Down:  Let-down is the milk ejection release that is stimulated by your baby at the breast.  It usually occurs within the first minute of feeding.  After the let down, more milk is freely flowing as your baby suckles your breast so swallows become longer and deeper.  Let-downs are caused by the hormone oxytocin that signals the release of milk from alveoli sacs into milk ducts that flow to the nipple.  Let-downs can be stimulated by breast pumps or even the sight or sound of your baby.  Many women don’t feel let-downs but others find it to be a prickly, tingling sensation throughout the breast.

Colostrum:  This is the first hint of breast milk that new mother’s produce.  It begins in the last weeks of pregnancy and extends to the first two to four days after childbirth.  Colostrum is thick and yellowy, and is full of protein and antibodies to help protect your baby.  While a new mom only products 1 to 3 oz. of colostrum a day for the first few days, this is usually enough to sustain a newborn’s tiny stomach.

Transitional Milk:  Transitional milk replaces colostrum by day five after childbirth.  This milk is not quite as thick and now has more fat, sugar and calories for your growing newborn.

Mature Milk:  Finally, by day 15 after childbirth, mature milk comes in and is the absolute perfect food to nourish your baby exclusively over the next six months.  Mature milk may change in color based on the mother’s diet and will alter to meet the needs of the baby at any given time.  This includes nutrient content and temperature.

Foremilk:  Mature milk comes in two parts, the first of which is foremilk.  It is thinner but full of protein with less fat and calories.  This is what babies will suckle out first from the breast during each feeding.

Hindmilk:  The second part of mature milk is hindmilk, which comes after foremilk.  It is denser and chock full of fat and carbohydrates that will help your baby grow.  It’s important to allow your baby to feed thoroughly from each breast to get both protein-rich foremilk and creamier hindmilk during each feeding.  Hindmilk is not only nutritionally crucial, but will also fill your baby to go longer between feedings, which is especially helpful at nighttime.

We hope you find this breast milk glossary helpful as you begin your breastfeeding journey.  Happy Breastfeeding!