Medical Conditions



Effective Sucking

What is effective sucking?

During effective, nutritive sucking, your baby uses the structures of his/her mouth to compress the milk sinuses beneath your breast and move milk into the back of his/her throat to swallow. Initially, your baby may seem to suck in rapid bursts to trigger milk let-down, also called the milk-ejection reflex (MER). Once let-down occurs, your baby should suck at the rate of about one suck a second, pausing 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/she sucks. Some babies swallow softly and other 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 he is sucking deeply. You should also notice rhythmic movement that begins at the edge of the baby's chin and travels down her/his throat as baby sucks and swallows. You should NOT see deep dimpling of his cheeks.

Your baby should continue to suck for about 10 to 30 minutes before he/she lets go (self-detaches) on the first breast. If your baby frequently falls asleep at the breast within a few minutes of latch-on or your baby frequently breastfeeds for 35 minutes on the first breast without self-detaching, discuss this with your baby's physician or a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC).

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Last reviewed: 12/31/2009