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Lactation physiokinetics-using advances in technology for a fresh perspective on human milk transfer.

INTRODUCTION: Though the nature of breastfeeding is critical, scant information is available on how the action of the milk transfer from mother to infant is regulated in humans, where the points of dysfunction are, and what can be done to optimize breastfeeding outcomes. While better therapeutic strategies are needed, before they can be devised, a basic scientific understanding of the biomechanical mechanisms that regulate human milk transfer from breast to stomach must first be identified, defined, and understood.

METHODS: Combining systems biology and systems medicine into a conceptual framework, using engineering design principles, this work investigates the use of biosensors to characterize human milk flow from the breast to the infant's stomach to identify points of regulation. This exploratory study used this framework to characterize Maternal/Infant Lactation physioKinetics (MILK) utilizing a Biosensor ARray (BAR) as a data collection method.

RESULTS: Participants tolerated the MILKBAR well during data collection. Changes in breast turgor and temperature were significant and related to the volume of milk transferred from the breast. The total milk volume transferred was evaluated in relation to contact force, oral pressure, and jaw movement. Contact force was correlated with milk flow. Oral pressure appears to be a redundant measure and reflective of jaw movements.

DISCUSSION: Nipple and breast turgor, jaw movement, and swallowing were associated with the mass of milk transferred to the infant's stomach. More investigation is needed to better quantify the mass of milk transferred in relation to each variable and understand how each variable regulates milk transfer.

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