The February edition of the American Dental Association has as it cover story “Oral and General Health Benefits of Breastfeeding.” It quotes many studies that state that some of the following benefits for babies from breast feeding; 1- less acute otitis media, 2- protection against diarrhea, 3- more antibodies and bactericidal properties in breast milk that combat severe lower reparatory tract infections, 4- less necrotizing enterocolitis, 5-less incidence of infant Leukemia, 6- fewer cases of SIDS, 7-protection from developing asthma, and 8-less likelihood of developing obesity.
The rest of the story is the dental benefits for the developing child. Proper breastfeeding develops a flatter and broadened palate. This makes a child less likely to develop sleep apnea and also a significant reduction in malocclusion of the teeth, namely posterior cross bites. Proper positioning while nursing can have a positive effect for nasal development and nasal versus mouth breathing. If care is not taken while nursing in the cradling position or lying in bed, the baby’s nose can become covered or blocked. This develops the habit of mouth breathing. A baby can drink mother’s milk and breathe at the same time for the first 4 months or so of their life. This ability goes away as the throat lengthens and the larynx descends making speech more possible. Because of these early habits, mouth-breathing or chronic congestion, which is more prevalent in non-breast feed babies, leads to a foreword head posture, poor dental occlusion, developing TMJ and craniofacial anomalies, headaches etc. as a child develops into an adult. Chronic low oxygen due to a poorly developed airway or out-right pediatric sleep apnea can lead to or exacerbate attention deficit syndrome and other personality deficits.
Breast feeding as the sole source of intake for a baby is encouraged for 6 months with ongoing nursing for at least a year.