Oral Health – For Babies

Breastfeeding v bottle-feeding – craniofacial development

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 how a baby extracts 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 infants start eating solids and later, drinking from a cup.

  • Breastfeeding increases mandibular sagittal growth, through movements of the mandible (bottom jaw) during sucking. The mandible 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. Humans should be able to breathe in and out through the nose. During breastfeeding, babies instinctively breathe solely through their noses. This way of breathing encourages growth of the nasal airways and initiates proper closed mouth breathing habits.
  • When breastfeeding, the baby / infant 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. Milk flow relies on gravity, which is often impacted if the child’s position isn’t correct. Flow-on effects can also include delayed or incorrect development of tongue action and the infant’s swallowing technique.
  • Feeding while the child’s head is back can also contributes to an increase in incidence ofear infections.

In comparison, bottle-feeding doesn’t aid craniofacial development in the same way. The following list details outcomes which may arise due to tongue placement and suction action of a baby / infant taking its milk from a bottle:

  • Initiation of 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.
  • A compromised bone growth of the palate. The back half of the tongue is not placing pressure on the palatal bone, which can contribute to long-term narrowing of the upper arch, tooth crowding and limited space for proper tongue position.
  • The mandible can sit further back in bottle-feeding, contributing to a class II (overbite / deep bite) tendency.

It’s important to remember, however, that the optimal health of the mother and the child combined is a key consideration. As long as the baby is fed and growing, and the mother’s mental health is sound, that’s the ultimate aim. Our expert team here at Richmond Fine Dentistry can assess and correct any Issues arising from incorrect craniofacial development. From a young age, our juvenile patients and their families can explore orthodontic intervention, which may include the use of Myobrace as a first step.

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