Breastfeeding Biomechanics

Lactation has shaped mammalian evolution. Mothers produce milk from mammary glands in response to hormonal and mechanical cues from the infant. And the anatomy of the infant mouth is specialized for suckling. However, very little is known about the interplay between suckling mechanics and the mechanics of the mammary gland. We are working on building a physical model of a mammary gland whose mechanical properties we can manipulate. We will test these models on infant mammals in collaboration with the German Lab at Neomed to see which parameters promote suckling that avoids inhalation of milk into the lungs, a common problem for premature infants and those with neurological problems. This work will also pave the way to a better understanding of how breastfeeding protects against breast cancer.