From Latch to Speech: How Breastfeeding Supports Myofunctional Therapy Goals

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A woman is holding a baby wrapped in a blanket while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful way to nourish your baby, but did you know that it also plays a crucial role in supporting myofunctional therapy goals?

Myofunctional therapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on correcting oral and facial muscle imbalances, which can impact speech, breathing, and overall health. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between breastfeeding and myofunctional therapy, and how breastfeeding can help your child achieve optimal tongue function and speech development.

The Importance of Tongue Posture

Before we dive into the connection between breastfeeding and myofunctional therapy, it’s essential to understand the importance of tongue posture.

Tongue posture refers to the position of the tongue at rest, which should be resting against the roof of the mouth, with the tip of the tongue gently touching the back of the front teeth. This position allows for proper nasal breathing, supports proper facial development, and aids in speech production.

However, many children struggle with incorrect tongue posture, which can lead to a variety of issues, including tongue tie, speech delays, and breathing difficulties. This is where myofunctional therapy comes in, as it focuses on correcting these imbalances and promoting proper tongue posture.

The Role of Breastfeeding in Tongue Posture

Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in promoting proper tongue posture in infants. When a baby latches onto the breast, they must use their tongue to create a seal and extract milk from the breast. This action strengthens the tongue muscles and promotes proper tongue posture.

Breastfeeding also helps babies improve their speech muscles by using their tongue in a coordinated and rhythmic way. This is especially important during the first few months of life when the baby’s oral muscles are still developing.

Breastfeeding Tips for Promoting Tongue Function

  • Encourage skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth to promote early breastfeeding and establish a good latch.
  • Support the baby in achieving a deep latch by ensuring their lips flare out, chin touches the breast, and their mouth covers a large area of the areola.
  • Be mindful of the baby’s tongue function during breastfeeding, ensuring their tongue is extended and moving freely to create a proper sucking motion.
  • Watch out for signs of tongue tie, which may restrict the movement of the tongue, and consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare professional if necessary.
  • Use different breastfeeding positions to encourage tongue movement and improve milk transfer.
  • Maintain a calm and relaxed environment during breastfeeding, as stress or tension can affect tongue function.
  • Offer both breasts during each feeding session to ensure proper stimulation of tongue and jaw muscles.
  • Implement regular breastfeeding sessions to maintain milk supply and promote consistent tongue function.
  • Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet, as this can contribute to good milk production and quality.
  • Seek support from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group if you encounter any difficulties or concerns with breastfeeding and tongue function.

While breastfeeding is a natural process, it can still be challenging for both mother and baby, especially if the baby has difficulty latching or maintaining proper tongue posture. Here are some tips to help promote optimal tongue function during breastfeeding:

Seek Lactation Support

If you are struggling with breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to seek support from a lactation consultant. They can help you and your baby find a comfortable and effective latch, which is crucial for promoting proper tongue function.

Practice Myofunctional Exercises

Incorporating myofunctional exercises into your breastfeeding routine can help strengthen your baby’s tongue muscles and promote proper tongue posture. These exercises can include gently massaging the baby’s cheeks and lips, or using a clean finger to stimulate the baby’s tongue movements.

Consider Breast Milk Expression

If your baby is having difficulty latching or maintaining proper tongue posture, you may need to consider milk expression. This involves using a breast pump to express milk and then feeding it to your baby through a bottle or other feeding device. This can help ensure that your baby is receiving the necessary nutrients while also promoting proper tongue function.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Myofunctional Therapy Goals

Aside from promoting proper tongue posture, breastfeeding offers a variety of other benefits that support myofunctional therapy goals. These breastfeeding benefits include:

Improved Tongue Movement

Breastfeeding requires the baby to use their tongue in a coordinated and rhythmic manner, which helps develop the muscles needed for speech production. This can lead to improved tongue movement and speech development in the long run.

Reduced Risk of Tongue Tie

Tongue tie is a condition where the frenulum (the tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too tight, restricting the movement of the tongue. Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of tongue tie by promoting proper tongue movement and strengthening the tongue muscles.

Enhanced Facial Development

Breastfeeding requires the baby to use their facial muscles, which can help promote proper facial development. This is especially important for babies with tongue tie, as it can help prevent facial asymmetry and other issues.

Combining Breastfeeding with Myofunctional Therapy

While breastfeeding offers many benefits for myofunctional therapy goals, it’s essential to note that it is not a substitute for therapy. If your child is struggling with tongue posture or other oral muscle imbalances, it’s crucial to seek the help of a myofunctional therapist.

A myofunctional therapist can work with you and your child to develop a personalized treatment plan that includes exercises, stretches, and other techniques to promote proper tongue function. They can also provide guidance on how to incorporate these exercises into your breastfeeding routine to maximize their effectiveness.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful way to nourish your baby, but it also plays a crucial role in supporting myofunctional therapy goals. By promoting proper tongue posture and strengthening the tongue muscles, breastfeeding can help your child achieve optimal tongue function and speech development.

If you are struggling with breastfeeding or have concerns about your child’s tongue function, don’t hesitate to seek support from a lactation consultant or myofunctional therapist. With the right support and techniques, you can help your child reach their full potential and achieve optimal oral and facial muscle balance.

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Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Matt Schwed is a distinguished pediatric dentist based in Garland, TX, known for his unique blend of scientific knowledge, artistic skill, and a deep understanding of child development and behavior. His journey into healthcare began as a registered nurse specializing in oncology and chemotherapy at a prominent New York City hospital. It was here that he developed a passion for early health education, recognizing its crucial role in preventing serious diseases later in life. Dr. Schwed holds a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from New York University and completed his advanced pediatric dentistry training at Brookdale University Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is Board-Certified in Pediatric Dentistry. His professional interests include studying the biological underpinnings of tooth decay and oral disease, particularly focusing on the oral-systemic connection, which underscores the significant impact of oral health on overall well-being. He has also delved into advanced studies in laser dentistry, particularly in treating oral diseases and structural defects like tongue and lip ties. Outside his professional life, Dr. Schwed enjoys a fulfilling family life with his wife Tova, a Speech Language Pathologist and myofunctional therapist. Together, they adopt a holistic approach to child health, considering various factors that might affect dental, speech, or myofunctional disorders. The couple loves outdoor activities with their four children and dog, especially hiking, camping, and singing around campfires, with Dr. Schwed often playing the guitar. This balance of professional excellence and personal passion for family and nature makes Dr. Schwed a well-rounded and compassionate pediatric dentist.

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