Breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding for jaw 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 craniofacial developmental attributes.

Breastfeeding is the process of 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. These muscular skills are then used when babies start eating solids and later, drinking from a cup.

When breastfeeding is carried out correctly it:

  • Helps to control milk once in the mouth
  • Aids correct swallowing
  • Protects the airways.


How does breastfeeding aid jaw development?

Breastfeeding increases mandibular sagittal growth, through movements of the mandible during sucking.  The mandible, or bottom jaw, must move forward to grasp onto 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 as babies instinctively breathe solely through their nose.  This encourages the growth of 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 to latch properly.  When milk is flowing back into the mouth, it impacts on the development of the tongue and swallowing action.

How does bottle-feeding impact on jaw development?

Bottle-feeding doesn’t aid craniofacial development in the same way due to varying factors. A key factor is the placement of the tongue and the baby’s suction action.

Bottle-feeding initiates a piston-like tongue motion to extract milk,. This action can be attributed to a faster flow of milk from the bottle. The tongue pushes forward to stop the flow whilst swallowing and will commonly result in a reverse swallow or tongue-thrusting pattern.  This habit, in turn, affects the bone growth of the palate because the back half of the tongue is not placing pressure on the palatal bone. This can contribute to the narrowing of the upper arch, tooth crowding and limited space for proper tongue position in the long term.  In addition, the mandible (chin and bottom 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 by the team here at TMJ Relief Clinic.

From the age of 6, we recommend Myobrace Treatment as a possible corrective jaw treatment option. This is provided at our Richmond Fine Dentistry clinic.

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