Oral Health – For Babies

Breastfeeding for craniofacial development compared to bottle feeding

A baby’s mouth starts developing from day one.  Breastfeeding helps to develop the proper sucking action and promote the development and activation of the tongue function, promoting many positive developmental attributes.


Breastfeeding is babies extracting milk from the breast via a tongue muscle ‘wave’ action, as the back portion of the tongue is crucial in drawing out the breast milk.

When breastfeeding is carried out correctly it:

  • Helps with control of the milk once in the mouth
  • Aids correct swallowing
  • Protects the airways

These muscular skills are carried onto when babies start eating solids and later, drinking from a cup.

  • Breastfeeding increases mandibular sagittal growth, through movements of the mandible during sucking.  The mandible, or bottom jaw, must move forward to grasp on to and support the breast below the nipple. This activity aids growth and development of the mandible muscles and bone.
  • Breastfeeding establishes a nasal breathing pattern. We should be able to breath in and out through the nose. During breastfeeding babies instinctively breath solely through their noses and this encourages growth of the nasal airways and initiates proper closed mouth breathing habits
  • When breastfeeding the baby should be upright.  When they are lying down or in a head back position, the bottom jaw struggles to protrude forward enough for a proper latch and gravity when milk is flowing back into the mouth, impacts on the development of the tongue action and therefore the correct infant swallow
  • Feeding while the baby’s head is back can also contributes to ear infection

Bottle-feeding in comparison doesn’t aide craniofacial development in the same way due to many factors including placement of the tongue and the suction action.

  • Initiates a piston-like tongue motion to extract milk.  This can be attributed to a faster flow of milk from the bottle. The tongue pushes forward to stop low whilst swallowing. This will commonly result in a reverse swallow or tongue-thrusting pattern.
  • Bone growth of the palate will be compromised because the back half of the tongue is not placing pressure on the palatal bone. This can contribute to narrowing of the upper arch, tooth crowding and limited space for proper tongue position in the long term.
  • The mandible (chin and jaw) can sit further back in bottle-feeding, contributing to a class II (overbite / deep bite) tendency.

Issues arising from incorrect craniofacial development can be assessed and corrected by the team here at Richmond Fine Dentistry.  Orthodontic intervention from a young age can be explored, this may include the use of Myobrace as a first step.

Contact us for more information and to book an appointment today.