Breastfeeding as Described by La Leche League International

What is breastfeeding and what does LLLI mean by breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is what happens when your baby drinks your human milk from your milk ducts at the nipple/breast. It involves you responding, holding, and helping your baby to get comfortable and to latch on to the breast. It also involves your baby actively drinking and swallowing your milk. It is a shared relationship and a shared experience. Breastfeeding offers a multitude of unique and significant health factors to both you as a mother or nursing parent, and to your baby.

For many people, the optimal health and/or most comfortable form of breastfeeding will involve your baby suckling your human milk directly from your milk ducts in the breast tissue around the nipple. When this happens without the baby having received any supplemental milk or formula during the first half of the baby’s first year, it can be referred to simply as breastfeeding. It can also be described as direct, exclusive, or full breastfeeding. Some people refer to their exclusive breastfeeding experience as chestfeeding.

For some breastfeeding mothers and parents, the above description is a nursing experience which they reach very quickly in the early days and weeks after their baby is born. For others, it may take many weeks or months, or be reached only with subsequent babies.

Some people feed their baby their milk at their breast/chest, and they also use supplemental expressed milk, donor milk or formula from the time of their baby’s birth, or for many months of their baby’s life. These supplements can be given to the baby using cups, bottles or an at-breast supplementer.

Some of the people using supplements refer to their feeding journey as combination feeding, and some prefer to use the words breastfeeding or chestfeeding. LLLI respects these different definitions and accepts that for many people across the world their breastfeeding experience may involve some supplementation.

Some people are never able to latch their baby to their breast directly and some babies are unable to suckle milk from the breast/nipple. This might be for physical health reasons for either the mother or parent, or for the baby. Not being able to latch your baby to the breast could be due to mental or emotional health reasons. It could be for cultural or other reasons for the mother, parent or family. Mothers and parents who feed their baby their own human milk fully through a cup, a feeding line, or a bottle may also describe their experience as breastfeeding. LLLI recognises the extremely demanding and tiring work that goes into expressing your human milk every day of a baby’s life. We respect the right of all mothers and nursing parents to describe their breastfeeding experience in the terms that suit them, including: human milk feeding, breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and exclusively expressing.

The first part of the LLL mission is about support for breastfeeding. In pursuing our mission we seek to offer information and support to all families for all of the different forms of breastfeeding set out above. Wherever you are on your breastfeeding journey, if you are pregnant, nursing your baby, expressing your milk, or weaning, La Leche League Leaders are always here for you.

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