You emerge from the womb, take a deep breath, and get to work.

Your job for the next few months is to grow and get stronger. Hopefully, you body weight will at least double during this period. You will need to feed every few hours because your metabolism demands it. The work is not easy.

Step 1 is to latch on to the teat that is made available to you. Hopefully it is your mother’s. It may be man-made. Then your suck, swallow, breathe reflex comes into play. Usually, all this comes naturally to you because you were wired to feed back in the womb. Then you tire. Your systems are being stressed. Muscle power is at work. You slow down, perhaps take a break, and you recover. Back to work. Then comes rest.

See this anatomy lesson to better understand your inner workings.

But all this is quite hard. It is stressful enough that your respiratory and cardiovascular systems might even let you down. You might struggle just to latch. You might be bottle fed because a bottle can be used to drip milk into your mouth and relieve you of the need to work so hard. You might need to be fed by a tube guided into your stomach via your nose, known as gavage or enteral feeding, if you cannot even deal with the drip feed from a bottle.

Your feeding success needs your instincts and reflexes to be combined with adequate co-ordination, strength and stamina. You need to be alert, rested, focused, and in an environment where your efforts are well-directed. The longer and harder you feed the better.

Does this sound like a workout regime? Of course it does.

Your coach, also known as your parent or carer, needs to work on your weaknesses and play to your strengths. Everything comes with practice and maturity. Sucking comes naturally to you. Anything will do – a thumb, a finger, a pacifier. Your ability will inevitably improve over time with reasonable care. Optimal care is better.

But what is optimal?