Biomechanics of milk extraction during breast-feeding

David Elad*, Pavel Kozlovsky, Omry Blum, Andrew F. Laine, Ming Jack Po, Eyal Botzer, Shaul Dollberg, Mabel Zelicovich, Liat Ben Sirae

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How do infants extract milk during breast-feeding? We have resolved a century-long scientific controversy, whether it is sucking of the milk by subatmospheric pressure or mouthing of the nipple- areola complex to induce a peristaltic-like extraction mechanism. Breast-feeding is a dynamic process, which requires coupling between periodic motions of the infant's jaws, undulation of the tongue, and the breast milk ejection reflex. The physical mechanisms executed by the infant have been intriguing topics. We used an objective and dynamic analysis of ultrasound (US) movie clips acquired during breast-feeding to explore the tongue dynamic characteristics. Then, we developed a new 3D biophysical model of the breast and lactiferous tubes that enables the mimicking of dynamic characteristics observed in US imaging during breastfeeding, and thereby, exploration of the biomechanical aspects of breast-feeding. We have shown, for the first time to our knowledge, that latch-on to draw the nipple-areola complex into the infant mouth, as well as milk extraction during breast-feeding, require development of time-varying subatmospheric pressures within the infant's oral cavity. Analysis of the US movies clearly demonstrated that tongue motility during breast-feeding was fairly periodic. The anterior tongue, which is wedged between the nipple-areola complex and the lower lips, moves as a rigid body with the cycling motion of the mandible, while the posterior section of the tongue undulates in a pattern similar to a propagating peristaltic wave, which is essential for swallowing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5230-5235
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Computational model
  • Fluid-structure interaction
  • Submental ultrasound
  • Sucking pressure

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