Check out this video from Bumpology showing how a baby takes out milk from the breast as revealed through an ultrasound.
The video was prepared by Donna Geddes of Western Australia who was also a speaker during the 5th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium organized by Medela. Dr. Geddes states that what happens during sucking is not a milking action but rather, "what we see is that when the tongue is lowered and the vacuum applied, that's when the milk is coming out of the breast, and that doesn't involve any compression of the nipple." She goes on to explain that "infants who struggled to breastfeed generated much weaker vacuums" and for women with these babies, "keeping the milk flowing using a breast pump and using this to top up breastfeeding until the baby is strong enough to suck effectively may be a better option than giving up on breastfeeding altogether." For women who find breastfeeding painful, Dr. Geddes' team explained that they found that the infants involved had "a particularly vigorous action" and as strong suckers, some were distorting or crushing the nipple.
Some lactivists and breastfeeding purists may react and say that putting baby to the breast is still the best pump and is the best way to encourage baby to strengthen their weak suck. However, for exclusive pumpers and even for working, pumping moms like me, understanding how babies really get out milk and knowing how a pump company is taking time, effort and funds to do this type of research is exciting. Yes, babies are the best pump but for every pumping mom, being able to express as much milk within a shorter time is a goal to be achieved - especially since you are often pressed for time (at work!) and certainly don't enjoy the company of a cold machine (as opposed to your baby's warm body).
As a pumping mom, I welcome this research and hope that this will pave the way for Medela (or some other pump company) to develop an effective pump with the goal of MORE MILK @ LESS TIME for moms.