Toward Consistency: Updating Lactation and Breastfeeding Terminology for Population Health Research

J Hum Lact. 2019 Aug;35(3):418-423. doi: 10.1177/0890334419851488. Epub 2019 Jun 17.


There has, historically, been a lack of consistency in the use and definition of terms and their associated measurement in breastfeeding research. The purpose of this paper is to promote consistency through a taxonomy and lexicon for population-based breastfeeding research with the modern nursing dyad. The taxonomy organizes concepts in categories related to research on feeding human milk to infants, noting the perspective from the provider of human milk (parent or alloparent) and the receiver of human milk (child). The taxonomy includes these categories: psychology, physiology, behavior, and modality. The intensity of behaviors and modalities can be characterized qualitatively or quantitatively. Other terms are introduced or defined for the modern era and measurement standards are posed. These suggestions invite discussion and debate, in an effort to move researchers toward consistent measurement, documentation, and presentation, to build a credible evidence base for breastfeeding and practices related to the provision and consumption of human milk.

Keywords: breastfeeding; feeding patterns; human milk; infant feeding patterns.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Population Health*
  • Research
  • Terminology as Topic