Babies Find Nipples To Nurse Because of Higher Areolar Temperature Interview with:
Francesca Volpe Psy.D and Prof. Vincenzo Zanardo Division of Perinatal Medicine, Policlinico Abano Terme Abano Terme, Italy
Francesca Volpe Psy.D and
Prof. Vincenzo Zanardo
Division of Perinatal Medicine, Policlinico Abano Terme
Abano Terme, Italy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Newborn infants, placed skin-to-skin on their mother’s chest instinctively have the ability to crawl to their mother’s breast, exploring with their hands and massaging the breast to support the first feed.  Left undisturbed, the infant will make several attempts until it finds and latches onto the nipple and begins to nurse.

What leads mammalian infants who are placed on their mothers’ chests to seek out, without any assistance, the nipple and to attach themselves to it to nurse is not fully understood. When we turned our attention to the thermal properties of the female’s nipple-areolar complex (NAC) in lactating mothers soon after birth, we found that it had a higher temperature and pH value and lower elasticity with respect to the surrounding breast skin. We hypothesised that the higher temperature could help the newborn infant to locate the nipple and to latch onto it, leading to the first sucking experience.  In addition, the diffusion of odorous molecules is presumably enhanced by the relatively high surface temperature of the areola in view of the rich supply of blood capillaries that irrigate the region. There is, in fact, some scientific evidence that show that infants respond to the odours released by the breasts of lactating women; breast odours, which are enhanced by the skin’s greater warmth, are another factor that facilitates breastfeeding by helping the infant to recognize its mother participating in the mother-to-infant bonding. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The thermal gradient between the NAC and the neonate’s lips increases significantly on day one and two post-partum. These findings demonstrate, for the first time, that a temperature gradient may support mother-infant thermal identification and communication in the breast crawl and in the natural progression of the continuum from birth to breastfeeding. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Further research could focus on avoid any possible disturbance within the first neonatal attempt of breastfeeding in order to let the NAC- newborn lips temperature gradient guide the newborn. Women with breastfeeding difficulties could benefit from NAC evaluation and eventually some manouvre or technique to enhance it.

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Zanardo, V., Volpe, F., de Luca, F. and Straface, G. (), A temperature gradient may support mother-infant thermal identification and communication in the breast crawl from birth to breastfeeding. Acta Paediatr. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/apa.13976

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