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Effective Sucking

What is effective sucking?

During effective sucking (nutritive sucking), your baby's mouth compresses the milk sinuses in your breast. This creates a vacuum to move milk to the back of the baby's throat to swallow. At first, your baby may seem to suck in quick bursts to trigger milk let-down. Once let-down happens, your baby should suck at the rate of about 1 suck a second. He or she pauses only to take a breath with every few sucks.

Illustration of breastfeeding, latch-on
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  • Listen for swallowing. You should hear a "huh-ah" or soft "k" sound deep in the baby's throat as he or she sucks. Some babies swallow softly and others gulp loudly. You should not hear a clicking or smacking sound.

  • Watch your baby's jaw. You should see rhythmic movement in the muscle that runs from the lower jaw to the ear when she or he is sucking deeply. You should also notice rhythmic movement that begins at the edge of the baby's chin. This travels down her or his throat as your baby sucks and swallows. You should not see deep dimpling in your baby's cheeks.

Let your baby direct the feedings. Your baby will detach from your breast when satisfied. Then you can offer the other breast if your baby still seems hungry. 

Talk with your baby's healthcare provider or a certified lactation consultant if your baby:

  • Often falls asleep at the breast within a few minutes of latch-on

  • Often breastfeeds for 35 minutes on the first breast without self-detaching

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Mary Terrell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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