There are many health benefits for both the mother and the child that come along with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides the child with the best nutrition possible for his or her little body and helps mom lose some of the baby weight. Breastfeeding also promotes the creation of antibodies specific to germs in the infant’s surroundings.
However, it is also important to note that breastfeeding helps to promote the normal development of jaw, teeth, facial structure and speech. Breastfeeding helps exercise face muscles and promotes the development of a strong jaw. It is also important to note that an increased duration of breastfeeding correlates with a reduced need for braces or other orthodontic treatments in the future.
Myofunctional therapist and dental hygienist Carol Vander Stoep draws a clear picture of what breastfeeding does for teeth placement in her book Mouth Matters:
It takes 1.4 grams of pressure to move teeth or change bone structure. The tongue exerts up to 500 grams of pressure, the cheeks up to 300 grams. For maximum attractiveness and a lifetime of healthy function, these forces must balance each other. Proper swallowing patterns learned by breastfeeding balance these forces so teeth erupt evenly around the tongue to form a beautiful and functional arch. A wide arch promotes a wide, open airway.
Babies who breastfeed and develop proper swallowing patterns and facial structure generally have more prominent cheekbones, less constricted sinuses, and a larger eye orbit that allows the eyeball to develop a proper shape. This improves chances of good eyesight. They also develop far fewer ear infections. Children with deep dental overbites are 2.8 times more likely to have ear tubes placed.
On the other hand, the tongue of a bottle-feeding baby creates a strong vacuum against the roof of the mouth and at the back of the throat. This can form a very high palatal vault, reduce the width of the arch, and constrict the sinuses and airway.
Thus, you also tend to see far fewer significant orthodontic issues among children who were breastfed including less crowding of the teeth, less misalignment of the bite and related problems. This adds an additional financial benefit to breastfeeding. When you consider the cost of orthodontic treatment today – in dollars, time and stress alike – it’s clear that this is no small benefit. Add to that reduced medical costs for allergies, infections, sleep apnea and other problems that can arise, and you see quite a savings indeed!