Before I get into the topic of this blog post, I want to say that this information isn’t meant to make anyone feel guilty or disheartened for not breastfeeding. It is simply a way to share the facts and knowledge on this particular topic.
We’ve all heard that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding our babies. It has become common knowledge that breast milk contains the perfect balance of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, along with beneficial bacteria and other immune boosting aspects that help our babies develop properly. Plus it’s a powerful way for you and your little one to bond.
But we are missing another piece to the puzzle (which Katy Bowman has opened my eyes up to)- the food you consume (in this case, breast milk) offers more than what is within the food.
“Perhaps the most significant contribution I can make to the discussion about food-related parts is this: When you chew your food- when you move the food with your tongue and teeth and jaw and skull bones and muscles-your tongue and teeth and jaw and skull bones and muscles are being moved right back. When you eat, you get more out of the food than what’s contained within it; there’s value to be gained in terms of the strength and shapes of your body’s chewing parts that develop when they’re used. When it comes to eating, there are mechanical nutrients involved as well as dietary ones. Unfortunately for us, it’s become easier to outsource our chewing- although it’s unlikely we think of it that way.” Movement Matters by Katy Bowman, Page 92
In other words, when a baby’s jaw moves up and down to compress the areola, and their tongue shifts into different shapes to extract the milk- it is providing a very particular mouth and jaw “workout”, and mechanical stimulation for the proper development of many different systems.
This particular movement, and the frequency of the movement, play a significant role in the purpose and future state of all the tissues and operations of- bone development (such as the jaw bone), the muscles in the face and throat, strength for swallowing, the glands in the throat, sinuses, vocal cord development, Eustachian tube, etc.
In regards to the frequency of the movement, there is a difference between a baby who feeds from the breast a couple times a day and one who feeds on demand. The latter being more beneficial.
Newborns naturally want to feed from the breast several times an hour, throughout the day and maybe every couple hours or so during the night. As they get bigger, the frequency reduces. But even at 2-3 years old, breastfeeding is still an essential part of providing this mouth and jaw “workout”, even if it is only a couple times a day or so.
That being said, unless you are a stay at home mom, this frequency is hard or impossible to obtain. And with the economic state of our country, it seems like a majority of the time both parents need to be working to keep up with the monthly bills.
So what ends up happening is babies are being fed breast milk or formula with a bottle- which ultimately does not strengthen the mouth, jaw, etc. the same way breastfeeding does. And what we have seen is:
“…mouths- and functions of and within the mouth (and the nose, and breathing)- that require many interventions to reclaim basic oral-motor functions like chewing, swallowing and breathing; as well as speech therapies, dentistry and orthodontics for tooth and jaw formation, not to mention non-mechanical therapies for nutritional and gut bacteria deficits” Movement Matters by Katy Bowman, Page 101
The proper nutrients and mechanical aspects of breastfeeding will greatly reduce or possibly eliminate someone’s chances of developing issues that need interventions. But this may only be the case if they go on to eating a nutrient dense, “paleo-style” diet.
If instead someone goes on to eating a poor diet, with foods that are soft/easy to chew (or not chew), which we see in a Standard American Diet (a diet high in refined grains, carbs/sugar, processed dairy products, industrial seed oils, and low in healthy fats and overall nutrient content), they are going to increase their chances of needing interventions.
This means that, babies who are mostly/only bottle fed and then go on to eating a nutrient-poor diet, are going to be the ones who will most likely need corrective procedures.
(A balanced, nutrient dense diet has a significant impact on the development of the jaw and teeth- it promotes a wide palate with efficient space between each tooth, and strong, straight white teeth that are much less likely to develop cavities and other dental/orthodontic issues. Check out this article, along with articles I will link below, and the work of Dr. Weston A. Price for more information on this)
Okay, let’s talk about some things we can do:
- If you are able to, breastfeed as much as you can, and for as long as you can. The WHO recommends a minimum of 2 years, but the average age around the world is 4 years.
- Adopt a nutrient-dense, “paleo-style” diet. Some of the best resources for this are from: Chris Kresser, Robb Wolf, Dianna Rogers, The Real Food Mamas, and Whole30.
- Get your kids to gnaw on chewy and solid foods (when they are at an appropriate age)- meats, raw carrots, apples, nuts, etc.)
- Consume plenty of mineral rich, ideally homemade, bone broth
- Integrate nourishing, mineral rich herbs, like nettle, plantain leaves (not the fruit) and dandelion leaves, into the diet.
For more tips and information I encourage you to check out this article : Dentistry in Harmony with Nature
And this podcast: Dr. Steven Lin- Dentistry and Mouth Health