I was checking out New Scientist online and found an article about the physiology of breastfeeding. I had assumed that baby used their tongue in a peristaltic-type motion to get the milk out but is seems that the functionality is more similar to how we breathe. Baby puts their whole mouth over the areolar region forming a seal and then drops part of the tongue creating a vacuum without breaking the seal. Baby repeats the motion to over and over to continue to rhythmically draw milk into the back of the mouth. It’s quite a lot of work which is why some babies stop nursing once they experience bottle feeding. (My little one is usually a bit sweaty during a feed. All that downy hair gets matted down. It’s really cute. I don’t seem to have a pick – but this one’s cute and nearly appropriate.)
Apparently, New Scientist found research via the Medela Breastfeeding and Lactating symposium that used ultrasound technology to literally watch what goes on so that we could better understand the physiology of the mechanism. It helps to explain what women (who have experience breastfeeding) have always known – babies with teeth don’t use them while feeding. In fact you pretty much cannot tell the difference while feeding baby.
Well this is news! It also explains why there is no crushing or ‘chewing’ of the nipple. I’m still nursing my little one and I catch my sister watching me sometimes and cringing. Now she’s pretty sensitive in that area and the concept of breastfeeding confounds her. No matter how I explain that it doesn’t hurt (and it really doesn’t) she doesn’t believe me. When I next see her I can explain the why more effectively.
So there it is – fear not ladies! Breastfeeding, once you and your baby have gotten into a rhythm, will be the most convenient and healthy way to nourish your babe. Enjoy this privilege – using your body to support your baby’s life. It’s an awesome concept. (It’s also one that has helped me overcome many ‘body issues’. Regardless of what I may think my body looks like – it sure does work.) And breastfeeding doesn’t last – so you may as well enjoy it while you can. You know, before they start talking and letting you know what a nuisance you are to them. You’ll know that without you, they may not have had the same mental capacity to articulate their angst. Hooray.