Abstract

Breastfeeding is a complex process where the infant utilizes two forms of pressure during suckling, vacuum and compression. Infant applied compression, or positive oral pressure, to the breast has not been previously studied in vivo. The goal of this study is to use a methodology to capture the positive oral pressure values exerted by infants' maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) on the breast areola during breastfeeding. In this study, the positive and negative (vacuum) pressure values are obtained simultaneously on six lactating mothers. Parallel to the pressure data measurements, ultrasound images are captured and processed to reveal the nipple deformations and the displacements of infants' tongues and jaw movements during breastfeeding. Motivated by the significant differences in composition between the tissue of the breast and the nipple–areola complex, the strain ratio values of the lactating nipples are obtained using these deformation measurements along with pre- and postfeed three-dimensional (3D) scans of the breast. The findings show an oscillatory positive pressure profile on the breast under both maxilla and mandible, which differs from clinical indications that only the mandible of an infant moves during breastfeeding. The strain ratio varies between mothers, which indicates volume changes in the nipple during feeding and suggests that previous assumptions regarding strain ratio for nonlactating breasts will not accurately apply to breast tissue during lactation.

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