Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding: How Breastfeeding Helps Create Straight Teeth

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding go beyond the nutritional value of the milk. Breastfeeding also plays a critical role in jaw development in infants by promoting proper jaw function. In doing so, breastfeeding helps set the stage for straight teeth and can mitigate the need for orthodontic or orthotropic treatment later in life.

The Natural Orthodontic Forces of Breastfeeding

This is because the natural sucking action that occurs during breastfeeding encourages the correct growth and alignment of the jaw. It does so primarily because breastfeeding requires the baby to use what's known as a 'peristaltic tongue movement'. This natural sucking action promotes the forward movement of the jaw, aiding in the development of a well-formed airway (which helps to facilitate nasal breathing instead of mouth breathing) and strengthens tongue and facial muscles, which promotes proper tongue posture (where the tongue sits on there roof of the mouth at rest).

To learn more about why forward growth of the jaws and correct tongue posture are critical in preventing crooked teeth later in life, read this article.

Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding

At first glance, breastfeeding and bottle feeding may seem quite similar. However, the mechanics and way in which muscles are engaged are completely different in breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

When breastfeeding, a child's tongue acts as a pump, latching onto the nipple and using its muscles to express milk and bring it down the back of the throat. In contrast, bottle feeding involves the child latching onto the bottle and using its lips and cheeks to suck and draw in the milk. This creates a sucking effect rather than a pumping effect, which can impact the child's growth and development.

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Latch and Suction

  • The baby latches onto the breast, taking both the nipple and a significant portion of the areola into the mouth.
  • The tongue moves in a wave-like motion (peristaltic motion) to create a vacuum that extracts milk from the breast.

Tongue Position

  • The tongue is positioned over the lower gum ridge and cups the nipple, forming a seal.
  • The tip of the tongue moves to the lower lip and stays relatively flat against the breast, allowing the baby to draw milk efficiently.

Rhythmic Movements

  • The baby uses rhythmic, coordinated movements involving the jaw, tongue, and lips.
  • The motion is more complex, requiring the baby to suck, swallow, and breathe in a coordinated manner.


Latch and Suction

  • The baby latches onto the artificial nipple, which is typically smaller and firmer than the mother's nipple.
  • Suction is less about creating a vacuum and more about compressing the nipple to get milk flow.

Tongue Position

  • The tongue often moves in a more piston-like motion, pressing against the artificial nipple to extract milk.
  • The tongue may not need to form as tight a seal as it does in breastfeeding.

Rhythmic Movements

  • The movements are often less complex and more straightforward, with a more constant and steady milk flow.
  • Coordination of sucking, swallowing, and breathing is still necessary, but the patterns can differ due to the easier flow of milk from a bottle.

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Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding - Which is Better?

Breastfeeding is superior to bottle feeding because it engages more muscles in the mouth and face due to the sucking mechanism required to extract milk. In doing so, breastfeeding encourages a child's lower jaw to move forward, which opens up the airway. This, in turn, helps the child to breathe through their nose as they pump their tongue up and down. This function promotes proper tongue posture, which is critical in ensuring sufficient room for the teeth, and sets them up for life to swallow properly when they start eating hard, solid foods.

On the other hand, bottle feeding doesn't encourage the same forward motion of the jaws and instead pushes the jaw down and backward. Because it engages the tongue muscles differently, bottle feeding can also negatively affect tongue posture, which can contribute to crowded/crooked teeth later in life.

Breastfeeding Gives Your Child the Best Chance of Straight Teeth

The effects of breastfeeding on facial growth and development are so powerful that many researchers liken breastfeeding to functional jaw orthopaedics, the school of thought that governs concepts like orthotropics and mewing.

One medical journal even suggests that "Breastfeeding is early preventive Functional Jaw Orthopedics because breastfeeding forces impact the jaws during a very rapid period of infant jaw growth". The same article goes on to say that "Bottle, pacifier and digit sucking deform jaws and airways."

So, in summary, breastfeeding gives your child a significantly better chance of having straight teeth and no jaw joint dysfunction later in life, whereas bottle feeding does the exact opposite.