Breastfeeding is the word that is most often used to describe what happens when your baby suckles your milk at the breast. Your baby actively drinks and swallows your milk. You and your body respond to your baby in a shared relationship and experience that is both physical and emotional. Feeding your own baby directly from your own breast confers the maximum benefits for both you and your baby and LLLI considers this the optimal way of feeding a baby.
When your baby suckles directly from your breast and does not receive any supplemental milk or formula for the first six months, this can be referred to simply as breastfeeding, or as direct, exclusive, or full breastfeeding. Some people refer to their exclusive breastfeeding experience as chestfeeding.
This nursing experience may be achieved very quickly in the early days and weeks after the baby is born, or it may take many weeks or months, or be reached only with subsequent babies.
Some people feed their baby their milk at their breast or chest while also supplementing with expressed milk, donor milk or formula in the early days or for many months of their baby’s life. They may use a variety of methods for supplementing. Some parents who use supplements refer to their feeding journey as combination or mixed feeding, and others prefer to use the words breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
Some people might never be able to latch their baby to their breast directly, and some babies might be unable to suckle milk from the breast. These challenges could arise from physical, mental or emotional health issues affecting the mother, nursing parent, or baby, as well as for cultural or other reasons. Some mothers or nursing parents who feed their baby their own human milk fully through alternative feeding methods might also describe their experience as breastfeeding.
LLLI applauds those parents who commit to the effort that goes into expressing their milk every day of their babies’ lives because they value the benefits of breastmilk so highly.
We respect the right of all individuals to make decisions about feeding their baby and to describe their feeding experience in the terms that suit them, including human milk feeding, breastfeeding, chestfeeding, nursing, suckling, and exclusively expressing.
Wherever you are on your breastfeeding or chestfeeding journey, if you are pregnant, nursing your baby, expressing your milk, or weaning, La Leche League Leaders are always here for you.
- LLLI, Breastfeeding Without Giving Birth, originally published in Leader Today, March 23, 2020.
- LLLI, Breastfeeding: What’s in it for Mothers?, originally published in Breastfeeding Today, January 16, 2019, LLLI.
- LLLI, Bottles and Other Tools, Breastfeeding Info, January 2019.
- LLLI, Cup Feeding, April 8, 2020.
- LLLI, Drip Drop Feeding, May 20, 2020.
- LLLI, Importance of Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding Info, January 16, 2018.
- LLLI, Milk Donation and Sharing, Breastfeeding Info, September 2020.
- LLLI, Special Needs, Breastfeeding Info, October 2020.