AskDefine | Define suckle

Dictionary Definition



1 suck milk from the mother's breasts; "the infant was suckling happily"
2 give suck to; "The wetnurse suckled the infant"; "You cannot nurse your baby in public in some places" [syn: breastfeed, bottle-feed, suck, nurse, wet-nurse, lactate, give suck] [ant: bottlefeed]

User Contributed Dictionary





  1. A teat.


  1. To give suck to; to nurse at the breast.
    The breasts of Hecuba When she did suckle Hector, looked not lovelier. Shakespeare
    They are not weak, suckled by Wisdom. Landor.
  2. To nurse; to suck.

Derived terms


to give suck to
to nurse; to suck

Extensive Definition

Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from a woman's breasts, not from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. It is possible for most mothers to nourish their infant (or infants in the case of twins and multiple births) by breastfeeding for the first six months, without the supplement of infant formula milk or solid food.
According to a 2001 WHO report, alternatives to breastfeeding include:
  • expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother
  • breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank
  • a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat
In most situations human breast milk is the best source of nourishment for human infants, preventing disease, promoting health and reducing health care costs (exceptions include if the mother is taking certain drugs or infected with tuberculosis or HIV). Experts disagree about how long to breastfeed to gain the greatest benefit, and the risks of using artificial formulas. In both developing and developed countries, artificial feeding is associated with more deaths from diarrhoea in infants.
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. AAP recommends at least one year of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life "provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection" that is more common in babies fed formula.;115/2/496The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both stress the value of breastfeeding for mothers and children. While recognizing the superiority of breastfeeding, regulating authorities work to make artificial feeding safer when it is not used. The composition of breast milk depends on how long the baby nurses.
"Research shows that the fat and energy content of breastmilk actually increases after the first year. Breastmilk adapts to a toddler's developing system, providing exactly the right amount of nutrition at exactly the right time. and the maternal bond can also be strengthened. Research has demonstrated a variety of benefits to breastfeeding an infant. These include:

Breast Cancer

A study at the University of Wisconsin found that adult women who were breast fed in infancy may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than their non breast-fed counterparts.


In children who are at risk (defined as at least one parent or sibling having atopy) atopic syndrome can be prevented or delayed through exclusive breastfeeding for four months, though these benefits may not be present after four months of age though the key factor may be the age at which non-breastmilk is introduced rather than duration of breastfeeding. Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, can be reduced through exclusive breastfeeding beyond 12 weeks in individuals with a family history of atopy, but when breastfeeding beyond 12 weeks is combined with other foods incidents of eczema rise irrespective of family history.

Celiac disease

A review of the association between breastfeeding and celiac disease (CD) concluded that breast feeding while introducing gluten to the diet reduced the risk of CD. The study was unable to determine if breastfeeding merely delayed symptoms or offerred life-long protection.

Diabetes mellitus

Infants exclusively breastfed have less chance of developing diabetes mellitus type 1 than peers with a shorter duration of breastfeeding and an earlier exposure to cow milk and solid foods. Breastfeeding also appears to protect against diabetes mellitus type 2, at least in part due to its effects on the child's weight. compared to formula-fed peers, death rates due to diarrhea in breastfed infants are lower irrespective of development level of country. and immunoglobulin A protecting against microorganisms.
Despite also being a factor in the transmission of HIV from mother to child, some constituents in breastmilk may be protective of infection. In particular, high levels of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids in breastmilk (including eicosadienoic, arachidonic and gamma-Linolenic acids) are associated with a reduced risk of child infection when nursed by HIV-positive mothers. Arachidonic acid and gamma-linolenic acid may also reduce viral shedding of the HIV virus in breastmilk.
Breastfeeding does not appear to offer protection against allergies.


Babies with a specific variant of the FADS2 gene (approximately 90% of all babies) demonstrate an average of 7 points higher IQ if breastfed.

Necrotizing enterocolitis

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NC), found mainly in premature births, is six to ten times more common in infants fed formula exclusively, and three times more common in infants fed a mixture of breast milk and formula, as compared to exclusive breastfeeding. In infants born at more than 30 weeks, NC was twenty times more common in infants fed exclusively on formula.


Breast milk contains the ideal ratio of the amino acids cystine, methionine, and taurine to support development of the central and peripheral nervous system. Children aged seven and eight years old who were of low birthweight who were breastfed for more than eight months demonstrated significantly higher intelligence quotient scores than comparable children breastfed for less time, suggesting breastfeeding offers long-term cognitive benefits in some populations.


Breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk of extreme obesity in children aged 39 to 42 months. The protective effect of breastfeeding against obesity is consistent, though small, across many studies, and appears to increase with the duration of breastfeeding.

Otitis media

The duration of certain types of middle ear infections (otitis media with effusion, OME) in the first two years of life, is associated with a shorter period of breastfeeding in addition to maternal cigarette smoking and feeding while lying down. A reduced proportion and duration of any otitis media infection was associated with breastfeeding rather than formula feeding for the first twelve months of life.

Sudden infant death syndrome

Breastfed babies have improved arousal from sleep, which may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Urinary tract infection

Breastfeeding reduced the risk of acquiring urinary tract infections in infants up to seven months post-partum. The protection was strongest immediately after birth, and was ineffective past seven months

Benefits for mothers

Breastfeeding is a cost effective way of feeding an infant, and provides the best nourishment for a child at a small nutrient cost to the mother. Frequent and exclusive breastfeeding can delay the return of fertility through lactational amenorrhea, though breastfeeding is at best an imperfect means of birth control. During breastfeeding beneficial hormones are released into the mother's body.

Breast cancer

Breastfeeding mothers have less risk of endometrial, breast and ovarian cancer, and breastfeeding diabetic mothers require less insulin. Breastfeeding helps stabilize maternal endometriosis,
Some breastfeeding women have pain from candidiasisor staphylococcus infections of the nipple though these can be managed with medical attention with little concern for mother and child.


Women who breast feed for longer have a smaller chance of getting rheumatoid arthritis, suggests a Malmo University study published online ahead of print in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (See Women Who Breast Feed for More than a Year Halve Their Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis). The study also found that taking oral contraceptives, which are suspected to protect against the disease because they contain hormones that are raised in pregnancy, did not have the same effect. Simply having children but not breast feeding also did not seem to be protective.


The hormones released during breastfeeding strengthen the maternal bond. Teaching partners how to manage common difficulties is associated with higher breastfeeding rates. Support for a mother while breastfeeding can assist in familial bonds and help build a paternal bond between father and child.
If the mother is away, an alternative caregiver may be able to feed the baby with expressed breast milk. The various breast pumps available for sale and rent help working mothers to feed their babies breast milk for as long as they want. To be successful, the mother must produce and store enough milk to feed the child for the time she is away, and the feeding caregiver must be comfortable in handling breast milk.

Hormone release

Breastfeeding releases the hormones oxytocin and prolactin which relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing toward her baby. Breastfeeding soon after giving birth increases the mother's oxytocin levels, making her uterus contract more quickly and reducing bleeding. Oxytocin is similar to pitocin, a synthetic hormone used to make the uterus contract.

Weight loss

As fat accumulated during pregnancy is used to produce milk, extended breastfeeding—at least 6 months—can help mothers lose weight. However, weight loss is highly variable among lactating women, and diet and exercise is a more reliable way of losing weight.

Organisational endorsements

World Health Organization

The WHO recommends two years of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

American Academy of Pediatrics

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aliment, aspirate, bib, booze, breast-feed, breathe in, care for, cherish, coddle, cosset, cradle, cultivate, drain the cup, draw in, drink, drink in, drink off, drink to, drink up, dry-nurse, fatten, fatten up, feed, fondle, force-feed, foster, guzzle, imbibe, inhale, inspire, lactate, lavish care on, mother, nourish, nurse, nurture, nutrify, pamper, pledge, pull, quaff, sip, slurp, sniff, sniffle, snuff, snuff in, snuffle, spoon-feed, stuff, suck, suck in, sup, sustain, swig, swill, tipple, toast, toss down, toss off, wash down, wet-nurse
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