Thursday, December 10, 2015

What a baby's tongue does during breastfeeding

If you've ever wondered why pumping doesn't feel the same as breastfeeding, or why pumping often isn't as effective, then watch this video of a 14-month old baby "nursing" in his sleep with his mouth open:

The tongue "undulates" in a wave from front to back (imagine ocean waves continually rolling onto a beach). When a baby is nursing, she expresses milk with her tongue's movement, combined with some suction and, of course, her mother's let-down reflex. When you pump, you only have suction + letdown. Until breast pump technology radically changes to mimic the natural movement of a baby's tongue, pumping will...well...suck.

Here's an ultrasound image overlaid on an animation of infant tongue movement.

Note: This last video mentioned tongue-tie. Tongue-tie can cause breastfeeding difficulties, but be sure to read Nancy Mohrbacher's article Tongue and Lip Ties: Root Causes or Red Herrings? Too often, she notes, a mother will have breastfeeding issues and attribute them to tongue-tie, when other culprits might be causing the nipple pain or baby's poor weight gain. She notes:
When mothers focus only on tongue or lip tie, other issues may be overlooked and problems can continue for weeks or months....Is tongue- or lip-tie revision the right thing to do for some breastfeeding mothers and babies? No question! But because tongue tie is the root cause of the problem for a minority of babies, it is a terrible place for most mothers to start. When nipple pain or weight-gain issues occur, a much better starting point is to contact someone who can help adjust baby’s latch and evaluate baby’s feeding pattern.


  1. Very cool! Thanks for posting.

  2. What great videos! You always find the best stuff about breastfeeding! :-)


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