By Eugena Brooks
August marks Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). The goal of the DHS campaign is to inspire women to commit to breastfeeding.
At sleepapnea.org, home of the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), we take breastfeeding benefits very seriously. We echo the goals of the DHS Breastfeeding month.
Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the feeding of babies with milk from a woman’s breast. Breastfeeding is important to the proper development of the swallowing action of the tongue, proper alignment of the teeth and the shaping of the hard palate. Breastfed infants typically rarely suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The University of West Virginia researchers found that children who were breast-fed for at least two months as infants had lower rates of sleep-related breathing disorders. Of special concern to pediatricians is childhood sleep apnea.
Breastfeeding is a natural safety-net for the first few months in order to give the child a fairer start to life. It reduces the risks of a host of medical conditions including otitis media, asthma, urinary tract infections, gastroenteritis, allergies, child obesity, cancer/childhood lymphomas, bacteremia, meningitis, botulism, juvenile diabetes, among a host of other ailments.
Breastfeeding stimulates the growth of a newborns jaw. Babies must use their tongue to press against their palate, which is soft or wax like. This movement helps to expand the palate and upper jaw which creates straight, wide upper teeth. The proper tongue position is resting at the top of the mouth which holds open the airway and promotes nasal breathing. Dr. Guilleminault’s focused his recent research on the development of children’s palate and airway.
Breast milk contains antibodies and biologically active compounds that play a key role in boosting a baby’s immune system. A healthy tongue posture is a vital part of dental health and can promote healthy teeth over a lifetime. Children who bottle feed are at a higher risk for symptoms to including difficulty breastfeeding, open mouth posture, tongue tie symptoms, mouth breathing, jaw pain, headaches and digestive issues. Parents can look for these symptoms in their child to assess tongue posture.
Health professionals recommend that breastfeeding begin within the first hour of a baby’s life and continue as often and as much as the baby wants. During the first few weeks of life babies may nurse roughly every two to three hours, and the duration of a feeding is usually ten to fifteen minutes on each breast.
Shepard JWJ, Gefter WB, Guilleminault C, Hoffman EA, Hoffstein DW, Hudgel DW, et al: Evaluation of the upper airway in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep 1991; 14:361-71.