Tongue movement and intra-oral vacuum of term infants during breastfeeding and feeding from an experimental teat that released milk under vacuum only

Early Hum Dev. 2012 Jun;88(6):443-9. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.10.012. Epub 2011 Nov 26.


Background: Recent literature supports the theory that vacuum is integral to the removal of milk from the breast rather than peristaltic compression of the breast.

Aim: We aimed to determine if breastfed infants could remove breast milk from an experimental teat designed to release milk only when a vacuum is applied.

Methods: Submental ultrasound images and intra-oral vacuum measurements were recorded simultaneously during both a breastfeed and a feed with the experimental teat.

Results: Infants placed the nipple and teat a similar distance from the nipple hard-soft palate junction when the tongue was lowered (4.7 mm vs 5.3 mm). As the tongue lowered the nipple and teat expanded evenly although the nipple expanded more than the teat (3.1mm vs 1.5 mm). Both baseline (-31 mm Hg vs -12 mm Hg) and peak vacuum (-122 mm Hg vs -67 mm Hg) applied to the breast were significantly higher than for the teat.

Conclusion: Breastfed infants are able to remove milk from a teat using only vacuum with a similar tongue movement to that of breastfeeding. This evidence supports the theory that vacuum is a critical factor in the removal of milk from the breast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Drinking / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mammary Glands, Human / physiology
  • Milk Ejection / physiology
  • Milk, Human
  • Models, Structural
  • Mouth / diagnostic imaging
  • Mouth / physiology*
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology*
  • Term Birth / physiology*
  • Tongue Habits / psychology*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vacuum