Suck it up: Teat design mimics breast feeding 'vacuum'
Feeding technology based on research by Dr Donna Geddes of UWA's School of Biomedical, Biomolecular and Chemical Sciences is now available to the four million babies born annually in the USA and is available in Australia.
Also available in Australia, Medela recently released its 'Calma'— the BPA-free teat is designed to help babies maintain a natural feeding technique.
Unlike the easy flow of conventional bottles, Calma requires the baby to create a vacuum, similar to breast feeding, allowing for resting, breathing and drinking.
The new design is the result of research findings by Dr Geddes which reveal babies on the breast don't feed via a wave-like movement, as previously believed.
"Technology has improved dramatically in the last 30 years in the field of ultrasound imaging," says Dr Geddes.
"We were the first to simultaneously measure intra-oral vacuum and image the infants tongue with ultrasound. This enabled us to measure tongue movement relative to both the vacuum trace and milk flow.
"What we found was that the mid-tongue is drawn down, vacuum increases, nipple diameter increases and milk flows into a space in the oral cavity. The nipple expands fairly evenly.
"Vacuum is also necessary to position the nipple in the correct position in the infant's mouth so that they can co-ordinate the suck, swallow and breathing process.
"Compression or wave like motion is more likely associated with the mid to posterior tongue, right at the back of the mouth, to assist swallowing milk, rather than removal."
The project grew out of Dr Geddes' PhD study of the anatomy of the breast, which refuted long-held beliefs that the tongue stripped milk from the lactiferous sinuses (sac-like milk ducts).
The new teat is more rigid than conventional teats to prevent the use of positive pressure by the baby. By best simulating the breast experience, an easier breast to bottle transition can be expected.
It also helps ease gassiness associated with air intake during feeding.
"Understanding how the infant breastfeeds will allow for the development of measurement tools to enable clinicians to better manage women and infants experiencing difficulties," says Dr Geddes.
"Currently advice is experience-based, therefore variable, and often many suggestions are made which can be confusing for the mother."
(Source: Science Network Western Australia)
By Rob Payne
For more information on developmental milestones in childhood, including recommended health check-ups and childhood immunisation, see Child Developmental Milestones.
Article Date: 10/3/2012
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