Breast pumps that stimulate like baby

Breast pumps that stimulate like baby

Feeding for baby |  2 mins reading time

A family looking at a woman all sitting around a table

The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be denied. Studies show that breast milk is the optimal nutrition for infants, and crucial to baby’s short and long-term health – promoting health equity1 , reducing the risk of diarrhea and pneumonia mortality2 and affecting asthma3 and BMI4.

In an ideal world, all new mothers would be able to breastfeed as long as they want. When breastfeeding isn’t possible due to premature birth, illness or separation (especially when mothers return to work), breast pumps ensure that babies still benefit from mother’s milk. Breast pumps are also a handy tool for supporting breastfeeding – helping to initiate milk flow, and to maintain (or augment) levels of milk production.5

Many breast pumps are based on suction only, varying in levels of frequency and intensity. But is this enough? Getting breast pumps to achieve what baby naturally does calls for a close examination of how mother’s body responds to that stimulation.

Triggering MER

Baby’s suckling triggers the afferent nerve endings in the areola and nipple area – which signals the central nervous system to release prolactin (for milk production) and oxytocin (for milk ejection) into the bloodstream.

Oxytocin provokes alveolar cell contraction, resulting in the flow of milk within the breast.6-9 Milk then flows from the alveoli through mammary glands ducts to the opening of the ducts in the nipple. This process – the milk ejection reflex (MER) or letdown – is vital to lactation.10,11 MER is also sensitive to psychosocial triggers.

Tactile stimulation and suckling patterns

Studies suggest that MER is triggered much more quickly by babies than by the suction patterns of conventional breast pumps. This information inspired research into the effects of adding a compression (tactile) component to a breast pump design. These studies mainly focused on mechanical compression, and not on the stimulation of sensory receptors. 12-14.

Philips Avent based the design of their new range of breast pumps on such research, developing Natural Motion Technology – which combines suction with tactile nipple stimulation by means of compression.

During a community-based clinical trial in the Netherlands in 2019, Philips Avent gathered physiological insights on tactile stimulation and infant suckling patterns.

The results offer clinical proof that the newly developed Philips Avent electric breast pump is comfortable and effective – and that mothers achieved quicker milk flow with Philips Avent than with conventional suction-only breast pumps. Milk ejection took as little as 46 seconds to occur.

Aside from boosting the confidence of new mothers, faster milk flow also cuts down the amount of time needed to pump, so they have more time to enjoy their new child.

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  12. Alekseev NP, Ilyin VI, Yaroslavski VK, Gaidukov SN, Tikhonova TK, Specivcev YA, e.a. Compression stimuli increase the efficacy of breast pump function. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. april 1998;77(2):131–9.
  13. Alekseev NP, Ilyin VI. The Mechanics of Breast Pumping: Compression Stimuli Increased Milk Ejection. Breastfeeding Medicine. September 2016;11(7):370–5.
  14. Kobayashi H, Tsuji T, Awano Y, Mizuno K, Kawamura H, Onuki Z, e.a. Development of the Breast Pump with a Baby-Like Peristaltic Motion. 2008;10.
  15. Based on product clinical trial (n=40) conducted in the Netherlands, 2019, compared to results of previous product version. For more info, see 3. 48.6 seconds time to MER by double electric breast pump

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