Ruth Lucas, RN, is an Assistant Professor in UConn’s School of Nursing. She began her career as a maternal child nurse and spent much of it working with mothers as they tried to breastfeed. Lucas observed that although there was a lot of research on mothers and breastfeeding, there was less robust science that evaluated infant behaviors as a stand-alone and objective measure, despite the fact that some infants struggled with the breastfeeding process even with mothers who knew what they were doing. She began to take a serious interest in infant breastfeeding behavior.
“Breastfeeding is one of the first social interaction behaviors, the first dinner conversation for babies. As conversations are an interactive neurological behavior, it seems like this is a good snapshot to look at how neurologically organized babies are at birth and that behavior that might tell us something about them as they get older,” says Lucas.
“We also know the important health benefits of breastfeeding, as babies who successfully breastfeed over long durations are less likely to be at risk for infant illness and for obesity.” Lucas is currently trialing a device to evaluate infants’ breastfeeding behaviors.
Involvement with CSCH
Lucas brings a unique perspective to the CSCH steering committee since she is focused on the earliest stages of a child’s life. She has been on the steering committee since the outset. “I think the Collaboratory is trying to find ways we can work within our times, our society, our resources, to leverage ways that most effectively support families” says Lucas. “What worked 20 years ago is not going to work today and yet there are universal needs for families and children–we just need to be smart about how we adapt for it in our time.”
Lucas enjoys reading and spending time with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart), her sons and extended family.
Watch Dr. Lucas discuss how breastfeeding takes effort on the part of both the baby and the mother here.