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Breastfeeding breakthrough - it's all about the sucking

Ultrasound images of breastfeeding may be key to helping mums having problems

Posted: 14 May 2010
by Susie Boone

breastfeeding baby
Babies create a vacuum effect around your nipple, sucking out the milk

Australian scientists have discovered the secret of how a baby gets milk during breastfeeding. Using ultrasound imaging, they've revealed that babies create a vacuum with their mouth around the nipple area - a method better known as sucking.

Up to now there have been two theories about how a baby breastfeeds. The first is the vacuum/sucking method. The second is the idea that a baby 'pulls' the nipple and breast, which pushes the milk out. This is similar to the way a cow might be milked.

This discovery could prove valuable in helping mums who have problems breastfeeding.

The scientists from the University of Western Australia found that babies who weren't feeding well, had the weakest sucking power. This could help to explain why premmie babies often find it difficult to breastfeed.

It means that mums who have early difficulties should be encouraged to keep their milk flow going by expressing, and then start feeding when their baby develops a stronger suck.

It may also help to relieve the guilt that many mums feel when they find breastfeeding difficult, while encouraging them to keep going.

The study, which was reported at the Medela Breastfeeding and Lactating conference in Italy, also found that mums who found breastfeeding painful had babies with a more vigorous suck. Using these results, it may be possible to develop a more effective nipple shield that could reduce breastfeeding pain.

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Breastfeeding, feeding, health, medela, mums, premature babies, problems, sucking, ultrasound

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