The essence of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a natural act of a mother feeding her breast milk to her infant. It is considered the most natural way to nourish a newborn baby. The essence of breastfeeding goes beyond just providing nutrition to the baby. It is an essential component of a normal infant life. Breastfeeding has a number of benefits to both the mother and the baby. It decreases the risk of respiratory tract infections, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and diarrhea for the baby. Breastfeeding may also improve cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood.

Breastfeeding promotes bonding between the mother and the baby. Breastfeeding for the mothers include less blood loss following delivery, better contraction of the uterus, and a decreased risk of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding delays the menstrual period, and affects fertility. Long term benefits for the mother would include: decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is less expensive than infant formula, and convenient for both baby and mother.


Skin-to-skin contact of infant with their mothers begins immediately after birth. Infants suck their hands as part of the activity and familiarization phases. Hand-to-breast-to mouth movements seem to be essential to the latch process: the more of these movements a newborn makes, the faster they grasp the breast and begin sucking.

Infants expect positional stability; complete prone positioning against the mother’s abdomen or chest, allows the infant better neck control and refined jaw and tongue movements. From being prone on a semi-reclined mother optimizes feeding related behaviors, making it easier to latch and breastfeed.

Suckling or Sucking

Suckling is the front-to-back, wavelike movement of the tongue. Sucking is a straight up-and-down movement of the tongue and jaw. Older literature on feeding assumes that suckling changes to sucking at 3 months of age.

Suckling is used to mean the act of feeding at the breast, and sucking is used to describe the oral motor activity that transfer milk.


Swallowing encompasses all three phases: oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal phases from when the milk enters the mouth until it arrives on the stomach, the primary focus being the oral phase.

Oral Phase

Rooting, attachment and sucking comprise the beginning of the oral phase. During sucking, the tongue forms a central trough or groove for channeling the milk posteriorly. The lateral edges of the tongue seal to the palate to keep the bolus organized. Milk is delivered to the tongue as the back of the tongue drops to create negative pressure in the mouth. Wavelike mechanical movements and pressure changes created by the tongue propel the bolus to the back of the oral cavity.

Pharyngeal Phase

As the swallowing is triggered, the following mechanisms for the protection of the airway are engaged : the breathing stops; the soft palate elevates to close off the nasal cavity and prevent the bolus from going into the nose; the vocal cords come together to close over the trachea; the tongue moves posteriorly against the posterior pharyngeal wall forcefully to create positive pressure; the upper esophageal sphincter opens, and the bolus enters the esophagus to make its way into the stomach.

Esophageal Phase

The bolus moves through the esophagus toward the stomach.


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