More mums can breast feed successfully
First images of the breast in action
Mothers can be concerned that they do not have a letdown when breastfeeding, so their babies cannot get enough milk. For the first time, Donna Ramsey from The University of Western Australia has used ultrasound to capture moving images of letdown in the breast while a baby is breastfeeding. The work is helping rewrite the anatomy of the breast.
Most mothers release milk more than once during breastfeeding, researchers in Perth have found. And the more times milk is released, the more their baby receives, regardless of the length of the feed.
These are the surprise findings of a unique ultrasound study of the human breast in action. (Ultrasound vision is available).
The new technique is an important part of a research program which aims to support mothers to breastfeed successfully.
“We’ve been looking at milk letdown: the process that starts when the baby suckles,” says research Donna Ramsay, from the University of Western Australia, speaking at ScienceNOW! in Melbourne.
If letdown does not occur in the breast, the baby doesn’t get any milk
A single breast feed often includes multiple letdowns, or releases of milk.
“The trouble is that most mothers do not feel their multiple letdowns, so they’re not sure if their baby is getting any milk.”
We found that most breast feeds involve multiple letdowns, and this is the only determining factor as to how much milk the baby receives,” researcher Donna Ramsay says.
When mothers can watch their breast at work using ultrasound, they get immediate feedback that milk is available to their baby.
Breastfeeding provides many health benefits to babies, such as protection from disease, improved growth and development, and increased intelligence. It’s been estimated that a rise of 20 per cent in the number of mothers breastfeeding at three months could save the health budget as much as $11 million.
At present there are no medical tests available to mothers experiencing difficulty breastfeeding, Ramsay said. This ultrasound technique shows potential as a non-invasive way of helping to overcome breastfeeding problems.
“Breastfeeding reduces the potential for obesity in the child in later life,” Ramsay says. “Our ultrasound studies support the theory that breastfeeding babies can control the amount of food they receive so they don’t get too much or too little milk.”