What is the ideal suck-ratio?

No, and the suck-ratio is not how well (or badly) your favourite sports team is doing this season!  Read on to find out what it is…

The suck-ratio is a term used when breastfeeding to describe how many times your baby needs to suck before they swallow.  And is a really good indicator of how effectively your baby is getting milk from you.

When people are discussing the suck-ratio, you may also hear them refer to it was the suck-swallow ratio.  And they may talk about it while discussing milk transfer or nutritive sucking.

So, let’s talk the suck-ratio…  What does it mean?

1:1 suck-ratio

A one to one ratio generally means that your little one sucks once then swallows. Think about this yourself.  Think of the most mouth-watering milkshake you’ve had in your life. You went to the local Milk Bar or probably now café and it came in a lovely milkshake cup with a straw. Perhaps when you were a kid on a hot day. Did you just sip it? No, you probably sucked really hard on the straw to take a huge mouthful. Now, if the milk shake was the right mix of milk to ice-cream – you would have swallowed because your mouth was full.  Right. That’s the 1:1 suck-ratio: 1 mouthful = 1 swallow.

2:1 suck-ratio

So imagine that the milkshake was made with a little too much ice-cream.  And it was thick.  Maybe you had to suck twice before getting enough of it up the straw and into your mouth.  After the second suck you maybe had enough to swallow. That’s the 2:1 suck-ratio: 2 sucks before you have a mouthful = 1 swallow.

Greater than 2:1 suck-ratio

Now, imagine that the milkshake is just made of ice-cream, a drop of milk and your favourite flavour. It’s really thick.  It’s almost impossible for you to get it up the straw.  You may need to suck on the straw 3 or 4 times before getting any fluid.  This is a 3:1 or 4:1suck-ratio: 3 or 4 smaller sucks before you have a mouthful = 1 swallow.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Just because I used the thick milkshake analogy, doesn’t mean that your milk is thick and gluggy! Quite the opposite. You may have great flowing breast milk. But for one reason or the other, you little baby hasn’t learned yet how to put some power into those cheeks!

What is the best suck-ratio?

Generally, you want your baby to have a 1:1 or 2:1 suck-ratio.  A ratio of this amount is often a good sign that there is good milk transfer to them and they are feeding properly.  Sometimes, this is referred to as nutritive sucking.

A suck-ratio of around 5:1 may mean that they are using your breast as a comfort aid.  And not really looking for its nutritional value.  This can happen towards an end of a feed when they are satisfied and ready to sleep.

This is certainly not a topic to stress over.  Just keep it in the back of your mind.  If you are having trouble feeding, knowing about the suck-ratio will help you speak with your caregivers.

Hi! Natural Birth and Motherhood is about empowering women who are going through the stages of pregnancy, birth, or motherhood.  Find out more useful information on related topics by clicking on the Blog button below.

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