Breastfeeding and Your Babies Health and Jaw Development
As some of you may know, my husband and I are expecting our first child in June! Like many new moms, I am on information overload when it comes to all things baby! I am constantly sorting through information on what I should and should not be doing/eating during pregnancy, how to survive labor, how to keep my child alive after birth, whether or not we should go disposable or cloth diapers, etc., and on top of that, filtering through the thousands of baby products out there! There is one topic that I am sure of and that is breastfeeding. As a dental health professional I have learned so much about breastfeeding and infant jaw development, oral health and overall health for your little one that I want to share!
Side Note: Breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations, and infant formula is a healthy alternative to breastfeeding. Deciding to breastfeed or formula feed is a personal decision and we fully support what you decide on what is best for you and your baby!
What food is the healthiest for your babies teeth? The answer is breastmilk. The two main dietary principles of breast feeding are function and nutrition/microbiome.
- Function – breast feeding promotes the growth of a newborns jaw. Babies must use their tongue to press against their palate, which is soft like wax. This movement helps to expand the palate and upper jaw which creates straight, wide upper teeth. The proper tongue position is resting at the top of the mouth which holds open the airway and promotes nasal breathing.
- Nutrients & Microbes
- Nutrients – the mother passes on her own store of crucial vitamins to her baby through breast feeding. The jaw growing cells and vitamins are distributed by the mother’s body. Vitamin D and Calcium and crucial in bone and teeth development in a child, therefore the mother must be sure to have a sufficient balance between the two to pass along to her baby.
- Microbes – Mothers transfer their gut microbiome to her newborns mouth. This occurs through special immune cells that package microbes from her gut and deliver them to her mammary glands. Breast milk is a constant delivery of microbes that save the oral cavity and eventually the gut microbiome of her child. Breast milk is packed with lots of antibodies and biologically active compounds that play a key role in boosting a baby’s immune system.
Breastfeeding and Jaw Development
Breastfeeding to develop the jaw and straight teeth is well known. As I stated earlier, it teaches a child nasal breathing. Mouth breathing is often correlated with blocked nasal sinuses, swollen tonsils, underdeveloped jaws, and crooked teeth. The proper function of the tongue (swallowing, guiding nasal breathing posture, broaden and develop the palate and jaws, neck and head posture, and healthy digestion) addresses many of these problems, starting with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding uses many muscles, cranial nerves and jaw bones, which all work together to form the oral cavity. Chewing and swallowing play and integral role of the mouth in jaw development and healthy digestion, which begins at birth with breastfeeding. These habits and exercises learned from breastfeeding have an ongoing impact on a child’s dental health.
During the first 4-6 months, a baby will have a purely liquid diet and the tongue posture naturally sits forward in the mouth to help latch for breastfeeding. By month 4-6, babies can begin to incorporate solid foods into their diet depending on their gut lining formation. Tongue posture has now changed from a forward posture to one sitting further back in the mouth and high against the palate, which will remain this way through adulthood.
A healthy tongue posture is a vital part of kids’ dental health and can promote healthy teeth over a lifetime, preventing braces. Children who bottle feed are at a higher risk for the following symptoms, but these can be prevented if paid attention to.
Symptoms to look for in children to assess tongue posture are:
- Difficulty breastfeeding
- Mouth breathing
- Open mouth posture
- Tongue tie symptoms
- Jaw pain
- Digestive issues
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