Breakthrough confirmation of ‘vacuum sucking’ method may help mums with breastfeeding problems
Scientists have used ultrasound to study how a baby breastfeeds. The ultrasound images have shown that babies get milk from their mother’s breast by creating a vacuum around the nipple area – what we know as sucking.
Up to now, there have been two schools of thought about how a baby actually breastfeeds. The first is the vacuum sucking method, the second is that the baby actually ‘pulls’ the nipple and breast to push the milk out – similar to the way diary milking machines work.
Previous studies had relied on x-ray images or focused on bottle-feeding babies. Now, scientists at the University of Western Australia, have combined ultrasound images of breastfeeding infants, with measurements of the vacuum created during feeding.
Most excitingly, the findings, which were announced at a Medela Breastfeeding and Lactating conference in Italy, could mean a breakthrough for helping mums who are having problems breastfeeding.
The scientists discovered that babies who had difficulties breastfeeding created weaker vacuums than those who fed well. This could explain why premmie babies often have difficulty breastfeeding, as initially they don’t have a powerful enough suck.
This means that those mums having problems but who really want to breastfeed could maintain their milk flow by expressing, and then return to breastfeeding once their baby develops a stronger suck.
Furthermore, if a simple test can be developed to measure a baby’s sucking power, it could help those mums experiencing feeding problems and take away any blame they may be feeling.
The study also looked at women who found breastfeeding painful and discovered that their babies had an extremely vigorous suck. Armed with this research, it may be possible to develop a more effective nipple shield that could reduce the pain.
Although my daughter (born April 2009) was not premature, I struggled to get her to stay latched on - perhaps this research explains why (i.e. she wasn't able to maintain a 'vacuum'). Even with specialised help at the hospital, I couldn't do it and was feeling pretty useless. Luckily, my hospital had a professional breast pump and I used this to start off my excellent milk production. When we got home, my husband and mum had arranged, through our local NCT group, to hire the very same breast pump. So, off we went with me expressing milk and giving it to our daughter. At the start and end of almost every feed, I tried to get my daughter to attach and STAY attached. It didn't work. Finally, three months in, our daughter finally got to grips with it (or managed to maintain a vacuum) and has been breastfed ever since. Despite her teeth, she is still breastfed several times during the course of the day and I intend to continue doing so for as long as possible.
Good luck to everyone out there.
This is exactly what the SCBU nurse told my when my daughter was born 4 yrs ago!
She was 5 weeks early and I had to express every 2 hours day and night while she was in hospital and she took to breastfeeding well after 3 weeks and was allowed home earlier than they thought because she was doing so well. I managed to breastfeed exclusively for 4mths.
The same nurse told my that if I started feeling useless at breastfeeding then I would be more likely to quit, think positive and it all falls into place and take each feed at a time, you both get there in the end, help is there if you need it but you do have to ask! I've remembered this with both my younger daughters and managed to feed exclusively for 8 mths and 7mths with them.
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