I understand and appreciated that breastfeeding can be a sensitive subject. In this blog, I will be stipulating facts and links that would lead one to believe that breastfeeding is optimal for neurological and morphological development. In no way, shape or form I am passing judgment as I speak about this topic.
John Medina, renowned neuroscientist and author of Brain Rules for Babies speaks of the research on breast feeding and states that, in the world of neuroscience, there is no controversy: breast feeding is best.
Dr. Sonia Padovan, MD, also supports one of the main reasons for this. She is a pediatric expert from Brazil and has been successfully working, for the last 30 years, with kids that present with neurological disorders of all kinds. In a recent course of hers that I attended in Montreal, she stated a few facts and links that give breastfeeding 2 thumbs up… way up!
1) The milk from the breast is the only food on earth to contain all of the nutrients to allow optimal development of the nerves. These nerves will then guarantee every function related to movement and cognition, thereafter.
2) Breastfeeding promotes movement of the neck and eyes as well as the development of hand/eye coordination. On one hand, the fact that both breasts are used for breastfeeding promotes movement of the neck in more directions, which ensures symmetrical and optimal development of the neck musculature.
These neck muscles are connected to the eye muscles via key relationships in the brainstem. Balanced tension in eye musculature enables proper eye tracking, which is key for the ability to read to develop normally.
As well, there is a critical distance between the mother’s and the newborn’s eyes with breastfeeding. This is a golden opportunity for the child to develop focus and attention, as there cannot be much greater reason for these competencies to develop.
Since the child has to hold on to the breast as he works to get the milk out, hand strength is developing as well as hand/eye coordination. You want your kid to go to Harvard AND play professional sport… it starts with breastfeeding!
3) Children are born with a dental class II. It is a posterior discrepancy of the lower teeth with regard to the upper teeth. It is also called an increased overbite. Where breastfeeding comes in is that the child, to suck the milk out of the breast, has to thrust his lower jaw (mandible) forward. This allows the child to normalize his bite. The consequences of this mechanical reality are numerous:
a. As the lower jaw moves forward, the tongue learns to contribute properly to the swallowing mechanism. Simultaneously, the palate lowers, which actually gives more room for the brain to grow.
b. As the palate lowers, the tongue learns to stick to it, which is associated to a closed mouth at rest. In this context, breathing has to happen via the nose. The oxygen goes straight to the brain! That’s one amazing way of improving cognition! 70% of kids with learning disabilities are mouth breathers.
c. A child that does not develop the sucking function of his mouth via breastfeeding can develop it by prolonging the amount of time for which he sucks his thumb. This typically does not allow a class II bite to evolve into a class I bite, which would be normal. The consequences that come with a class II bite are then present: mouth breathing, stress on the immune system (since the air is not filtrated by the nostrils), and a dysfunctional resting tongue position. This specific tongue dysfunction can affect the development of speech… It really truly is all related!
So can there be a link between breastfeeding and learning disabilities? Of course! Then again, to come to this conclusion, one has to make links, connections. You could easily say, that’s when I start to have some fun!