The benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother are well-known and documented. Breast milk is the best and only food necessary for infants up to six months and countless studies show the benefits of an even more extended time of breastfeeding, both for the baby’s health and for the nursing mother.
Is it just the mother’s milk alone that benefits an infant? Does putting breast milk in a bottle deliver the same good results? Nutritionally, yes, but when it comes to nursing, a baby’s jaw and palate development is considerably improved by breast feeding.
When a baby is nursing properly, its facial muscles and tongue are using a rolling motion, compared to the squeezing action in bottle feeding. As a result, it takes more work for the infant to receive what it wants from the breast – mother’s milk. “Babies at the breast have to use as much as 60 times more energy to get food than do those drinking from a bottle…As [the baby’s jaw] muscles are strenuously exercised in suckling, their constant pulling encourages the growth of well-formed jaws and straight, healthy teeth,” states The Complete Book Of Breastfeeding.
When fed with an artificial nipple from a bottle, a baby is often forced to put its tongue up against the hole to prevent the formula from gushing out too quickly. This can lead to “tongue thrust” or a deviant swallow that can last into adulthood. For an exhausted and busy parent of a newborn, it may seem a kindness to opt for the ease of bottle feeding that quickly satisfies an empty belly. Nevertheless, even if that bottle is filled with the perfect baby food — mother’s milk – nothing does a baby’s oral health more good than all the work it takes to get the milk straight from the mother. Perhaps research can come up with a system of bottle feeding that mimics the complex interaction of breastfeeding on an infant’s developing jaw and palate.
Breastfeeding is a proven “win-win” choice for both baby and mother. Babies do best, not just with breast milk, but with the work they do to get milk from breastfeeding. Their jaw becomes more fully developed, their palate forms properly and their teeth will likely come in healthier with plenty of room along the jawline. You could even say that breastfeeding may prevent the need for braces later in life. That’s one more “pro” on the list of why breastfeeding is the best option, whenever possible, to feed that little bundle of joy.