Aim: The objective of this study was to determine whether infants of mothers experiencing persistent nipple pain exerted very strong intraoral vacuums during a breastfeed.
Methods: Thirty mothers experiencing persistent pain during breastfeeding (Pain group; infants aged 49.4 ± 35.5 days) were compared to 30 successfully breastfeeding mothers (Control group; infants aged 55.0 ± 22.7 days). Infant intraoral vacuums were measured via a small milk-filled tube taped alongside the nipple and connected to a pressure transducer. Milk intake was measured using the test weigh method.
Results: Infants in the Pain group applied significantly stronger baseline (−90.8 ± 54.5 vs. −56.4 ± 31.4 mmHg, p = 0.004), peak (−214.3 ± 60.5 vs. 163.2 ± 62.4 mmHg, p = 0.002) and pause vacuums (−104.8 ± 67.9 vs. −45.8 ± 30.3 mmHg, p < 0.001). Despite similar active sucking times (377.5 ± 175.2 vs. 349.4 ± 184.0 sec, p = 0.554) the mean milk intake was significantly lower for infants of mothers with nipple pain (41.6 ± 31.3 vs. 70.7 ± 30.7 g, p = 0.001).
Conclusion: Infants of breastfeeding mothers experiencing persistent nipple pain applied significantly higher vacuum to the breast during breastfeeding despite assistance with positioning and attachment from a lactation consultant. Further investigation into the cause of the abnormally high vacuums is essential to develop successful interventions for these mother–infant dyads.