Breastfeeding: It’s More Than Just Nutrition. The Mechanical Advantage to Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is more than just nutrition


The Mechanical Advantage to Breastfeeding

First things first: this post isn’t intended to put breastfeeders vs. bottle-feeders at odds. Making the choice of how your infant will receive nutrition is complicated and intensely personal.

We recognize that not all mamas choose to or are able to breastfeed. But, it is important to understand its benefits so that we can be aware of facial growth and offer alternative solutions to optimizing development.

That said, I’m a #functionaldentist who focuses on addressing the root causes of dental problems. And what most people, even professionals in the industry, don’t realize is that we can prevent so many dental problems with proactive measures at an early stage.

Crooked teeth? Underbite? Narrow facial structure? Cavities? Periodontal disease? These are all things we can impact before they become a problem.

It starts as early as just day 1 of being born. Breastfeeding is a simple yet complex process. In addition to the compositional benefits of the milk, there is a mechanical advantage that breastfeeding offers.

When a child nurses from the breast, consider the following impacts:

  • Muscles are used to form a vacuum-like effect.
  • The back of tongue draws to the upper palate, acting as a natural expander.
  • Forward development occurs, as the tongue pushes the breast against the front of the palate once milk has been released.
  • The airway grows and develops, following the jaws and face.

The jaws and facial structures house and form the boundaries of the airway and are essential for breathing and good health. As the jaws grow, they allow room for teeth to erupt, prevent crowding of teeth, and allow for adequate tongue space.

Research has shown that babies who are breastfed have greater orofacial muscle activity than those who are bottle-fed. Overall, breastfeeding is an excellent orofacial muscle work out, and this helps to develop good bony jaw structures.

In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the muscle strength developed during breastfeeding persists even after breastfeeding has stopped. Even at the age of 2 to 3 years old when breastfeeding has stopped, breastfed babies have stronger chewing muscles than their bottle fed counterparts.

We suggest that, in the presence of breastfeeding, problems due to tethered oral tissues (tongue, lip, and cheek ties) are RULED OUT. Lip, cheek and tongue ties are a common source of nursing problems such as poor latch, colic, reflux (aerophagia), nipple damage and pain.

Yet these problems are often overlooked and undiagnosed. It is not uncommon that when a child comes in for dental evaluation at our practice, we are the first to identify these restrictions, despite a history of these problems.

Questions? Give us a call or come see us at Untethered Tongue Tie Center. We love to help little jaws grow, AND help those that ended up with small mouths AFTER growth 😉