Breastfeeding Helps Children Avoid Braces and Other Facts

by Dagmar Bleasdale on December 30, 2011

I got a nasty, personally attacking comment on one of my latest posts and at first I was going to just delete it — because there is no room for nasty, personally attacking comments on Dagmar’s momsense.

But then I got over feeling undeserving of such an unkind comment and decided to respond instead — because it’s an opportunity to educate that particular reader and others about the fact that breastfeeding helps with the proper development of an infant’s oral cavity and other often-overlooked benefits of breastfeeding.

Here is my response:

Nicole, I wish you would have googled “breastfeeding and oral health” before your wrote such an attacking comment.

It is widely known that breastfeeding DOES make it less likely that L will need braces. See all that space L has between his teeth on the top? It was his dentist who pointed out that it’s great to have that much space for the larger, permanent teeth to come in and that it comes from breastfeeding. Kids who use a bottles or pacifiers are more likely to need braces.

I’m no expert; don’t take my word for it:

The Influence of Breastfeeding on the Development of the Oral Cavity

(This article was selected by UNICEF as the “Breastfeeding Paper of the Month” for July, 1998.)

“…another compelling benefit to exclusive breastfeeding: positive effects on the development of an infant’s oral cavity, including improved shaping of the hard palate resulting in proper alignment of teeth and fewer problems with malocclusions (misalignment of teeth or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches)…

During breastfeeding, the infant has to work the jaws and tongue in a natural physiological manner to aid in the compression of the lactiferous sinus. This action, plus normal swallowing motions, help to develop proper perioral (around the mouth and jaw) musculature… As the infant uses a peristaltic-like motion to “strip” milk from the mother’s nipple/areolar area, the hard palate is gently shaped by the infant’s tongue to a rounded U-shaped configuration. A physiologically and appropriately shaped palate aligns the teeth properly…”

Breast milk doesn’t prevent cavities, but it doesn’t create them, that is important for people to understand. L’s problems with his teeth stem from the first SOLID foods he got, that’s when his problems started.

Since we have been on top of his tooth brushing, his teeth have stabilized — even though he gets nursed to sleep every night (for the last 5 years). There is my proof that breast milk doesn’t cause cavities.

L’s tonsils were never infected, and if you would have read my posts about the tonsil drama, you would have known that. He seems genetically predisposed to develop large tonsils, just like I did as a kid, my father, and L’s father.

L suffered from sever sleep apnea and they had to be removed, there was no other option. He recovered amazingly fast, thanks in part to breast milk bathing the wounds. He also needed way less pain medication compared to other kids.

When have I ever mentioned God and breastfeeding in the same sentence? That comment is just absurd.

About everything you mentioned about breastfeeding, I couldn’t say it better than Anne Smith, BA, IBCLC, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, certified La Leche League Leader and mom of six breastfed children:

“If you nurse for a year or more, he will receive health benefits that last a lifetime. Long-term nursing protects against ulcerative colitis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease, obesity, and high cholesterol in adulthood.

Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need speech therapy or braces later in life.

There are many benefits of extended breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least the first year of your baby’s life.

-Your baby continues to get the immunological advantages of human milk, during a time when he is increasingly exposed to infection. Breastfed toddlers are healthier overall.
-When he is upset, hurt, frightened, or sick, you have a built in way to comfort him. Often a sick child will accept breastmilk when he refuses other foods.
-Many of the medical benefits of breastfeeding (lower cancer risk in mother and baby, for example) are dose related – in other words, the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effects.
-Human milk offers protection for the child who is allergic.
-Mothering a toddler is challenging enough – nursing makes the job of caring for and comforting him easier. There is no better way to ease a temper tantrum, or put a cranky child to sleep than by nursing.
– Nursing provides closeness, security, and stability during a period of rapid growth and development.”

You can believe what you want, Nicole, but you might want to educate yourself a bit more about breastfeeding.

And — I wrote a post about commenting etiquette you might find interesting: Netiquette: How to Deal With Unkind Blog Comments


I’m a lactivist, and if this post changes just one woman’s decision to breasfeed her baby after all or longer than she anticipated, I’d be thrilled.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee September 7, 2012 at 8:49 AM

Hey, wonderful page! I was just scanning your site. I read these things 12 years ago and didn’t know if it would all come true….but so far, so good. Breastfed both children for several years…..turns out that their childhoods are so much better than mine was (my mom breastfed me for several months). No speech problems (I went to speech therapy). They are the only kids I know who have never said any sounds wrong. No braces will be necessary, even though my mouth was a crowded nightmare. No illnesses, even though I was plagued with pneumonia and strep throat. So smart, too, although lots of kids are smart! Spoke like adults by age two. Didn’t have any solid foods until they were 1, and were the tallest and fattest babies on the charts…or rather, off the charts! Now they are 13 and 10, so thanks for educating!


Renee September 7, 2012 at 9:02 AM

I guess I didn’t really comment on what the thread was about – cavities and tonsils……My kids both bf for 4 years. (At night, too, of course) One has had just one cavity, one has had a few every year. One dentist wanted to remove all her top front teeth at age 2. Yeah, right! I found another one who agreed to fill them instead. This child also has the huge tonsils you talked about, but they don’t touch, and she had some sleep apnea that she seems to be outgrowing so the tonsils are staying put for now. Our doctor said it is just genetic (her aunt had the same thing). Our dentist said cavities are dependent on the tooth hardness and also genetic. (unless the diet is perfect, which no one’s is, right?) So, two kids, same bf experience, totally different teeth. I secretly laughed when friends said I must not brush the one’s teeth often enough…..okay, so I brush one child’s teeth and not the other? Give me a break, some things you can’t control.


Dagmar September 7, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Hi Renee,

thanks for your comments!! Great to read that your breastfed your kids for 4 years — makes me feel less odd :) I wish there were many more moms who nursed their kids for many years.


Jeanette January 9, 2012 at 7:14 AM

This was a great post. Thank you!!

I breastfed my daughter until she self-weaned at a little over 3.5 years old, and that also included night nursing for the first two years or so. She did get cavities – but as you say, that comes from the solid foods. Or even more spesifically: all the carbs kids are getting through porridges and bread. I do not think that children (or anybody) should eat grains – try to go one day without, and discover how clean your teeth are at the end of the day. It’s nothing short of amazing, I’d never believe it if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. So next time around, if I’m so lucky as to have a new baby someday, I’ll skip the porridge and go for finger foods and baby led weaning instead.


Dagmar January 9, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Thanks for letting me know that you liked this post, Jeanette. Great to hear that you breastfed for 3.5 years, that’s a long time!


Nicole January 4, 2012 at 4:52 AM

UMMMMMMMMMM where did i say i did not breastfeed? I did breastfeed, not until he was 6 years old though. Sorry but I just have issues with that. JUst as I would take issue with a 6 year old still using a bottle or a pacifier. I would fel VERY uncomfortable being by a Mother BF her 6 year old. I think you feel uncomfortable in public also as you covered the whole thing up on the plane trip and other places. What will he think when he is 13 and recalls BF at 6? Just saying but to each their own

You keep forgetting GENETICS Dagmar. I also did GOOGLE breastfeeding helps align teeth. But you know best as usual. You never answered my question on how your son had to have his tonsils out and in fact would have to have had at least 6 DOCUMENTED infections before the tonsils were removed. how did that happen if BF prevents all? will yo be BF when he is in middle school coz those nasty bugs are everywhere.

Breastfeeding IS best i just take offesne to your insinuating that is prevents EVERYTHING under the sun. It does not. Life happens. Braces happen and IMO humble opinon your Son will require braces and he has already had a very serious issue with his teeth.

It is good you advocate strongly for BF but you come across as less than humble and more of “look at me i know everything about BF and am the best Mother ever and the rest of you that don’t BF until your child is 7 are bad Mothers and dont love your kids as much as i do” very condescending to the casual reader and to the UNABLE TO BF Mother? I bet they feel really good about themselves.

someone else mentioned genetics in this thread and i agree. He will need braces. Yes i looked at his teeth. Braces! BF or not.


Dagmar January 4, 2012 at 10:19 AM

If you would have read my response, I made clear that he never once had an infection. That’s why I tried all kinds of other things (naturopathic doctor, diet, waiting to see if they will get smaller — all documented in my posts about the tonsils) before relenting to have them taken out. We didn’t have a choice; he couldn’t breath at night.

He had enlarged tonsils to the point that they were touching each other in the back of his throat, we think just something he inherited (yes, genetics!) by his parents and grandparents (we all had them out), and he had terrible sleep apnea. His tonsils had to be removed because of sleep apnea, NOT infections.

I don’t know where you get the info that tonsils don’t get removed until a child has had 6 documented infections. They also get removed for sleep apnea.

All I said in my original post that you commented on was: “I’m crossing my fingers that he will never need braces.” I never said he doesn’t need braces. I’m well aware that I can’t predict what is going to happen, but “I’m crossing my fingers.”

Seems to me you have made up your mind about me and misinterpret everything I say to fit that opinion. That is you prerogative. But I’m done with this discussion.


Kathy Zucker December 30, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Thanks for this post, interesting info about how the palate is shaped by breastfeeding. I exclusively breastfed my son for 13 months until he self-weaned, did a combo of breast & bottle for my older daughter..who is in speech therapy. Debating what to do for baby #3 but this definitely helps incentivize me to give breastfeeding the old college try.

Re. health benefits both my kids are extremely healthy, but only time will tell re. cancer & diabetes risks. Good stuff!


Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Hi Kathy, wonderful to hear that my post made an impact in your decision to breastfeed. Since you already are an old pro at breastfeeding, I’m sure you’ll do fine with baby #3 :)


Tricia December 30, 2011 at 7:14 PM

while I don’t always agree with you, you were spot on. I can understand Nicole’s frustrations when it comes to not being able to breastfeed – been there, done that – there was no reason to attack you.

I pumped and fed my youngest breastmilk for 9 months. She had medical issues so I felt I *needed* to do this (plus it was the one thing I could control with so much chaos going on in my life at the time). She was SO much healthier as a baby than my older one who only received breast milk for about 3 weeks.


momto8blog December 30, 2011 at 3:22 PM

You go girl! I have nursed my 8 babies and have the emperical evidence to back up your facts. I am a new follower from the hop..pls follow back if you can!


Amanda December 30, 2011 at 3:03 PM

I think you made a good decision to keep the comment. Although she could have been nicer about her opinion, I do appreciate how you have supported your beliefs with facts from experts. We all do not agree on how to teach / parent our children on all aspects. Teaching of reading often brings up heated controversy too ( I know it sounds unusual, but it does!). It is important to stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes controversy allows us a deeper understanding of our own beleifs! I try to teach my children that it is ok to have your own views, but that you should not look down, or belittle someone elses. My kids weaned at 22 months and 19 months and that worked for us, but I think that you know your child the best and have every right to decide how to parent him the way you believe is most benefitial to his health and well being.


Leah Ingram December 30, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Hey. I just wanted to post a comment on your follow up about breastfeeding. First let me start by saying that I am a HUGE advocate of breastfeeding. I nursed both of my daughters for a year, and exclusively for 6 months before introducing solids. My daughters are now healthy, intelligent teenagers who would probably cringe if they knew I was talking about them in this fashion! ;-)

That said, I also want to point out that while it is best to breasftfeed, doing so isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have future orthodontic bills. My oldest daughter ended up needing braces TWICE, including a palette expander, and my younger daughter just got her braces off after 2 years. This after neither my husband nor I needed braces.

However, neither girl had a cavity until they hit age 13. Who knows what happened at that juncture, but they were cavity-free for the first 13 years of their life.

Does any of this have to do with breastfeeding? Who knows? But I didn’t want anyone to think that if you breastfeed, your kid will never need braces. You never know what oral genetics you’re dealing with!

Nice job on your rebuttal, by the way.



Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 9:33 PM

Hi Leah, thanks for your comment and sharing your experience.

In my original post I never mentioned that L will not need braces. All I said was: “…I’m crossing my fingers that he will never need braces.”

I know that breastfeeding isn’t a guarantee that he doesn’t need braces, but he has a much better chance because of his nursing. I had braces and it was miserable, so “I’m crossing my fingers that he will never need braces” :)


monica December 30, 2011 at 2:34 AM

Way to be mature and handle that rude comment positively. I never knew breastfeeding helps prevent the need to hve braces. I wouldn’t doubt it! Thanks for the new info/post.


Maria Brophy December 30, 2011 at 2:19 AM

I loved breastfeeding my son when he was a baby. It was the most natural thing I could do, and it sure made going shopping and out to dinner EZ! Never had to pack anything, just brought a little cover-up blanket and out the door we went.

He stopped at exactly one year, his decision. One day he just turned his head and was finished with the breast. I remember feeling sad, because I knew he was my only child. But, at the same time, I was relieved to have my body back!

My son is very healthy, he’s 10 now, and I truly believe that breastfeeding was a huge contributor to his rarely ever getting sick. (Good food helps, too)

I know there are women who physically can’t do it, and I feel for them, however, it’s not the end of the world. But, if you can, you should. It makes your life easier, and it’s a beautiful thing.


Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 2:24 AM

Maria, I totally agree – breastfeeding seemed above all the other advantages so much easier than bottle-feeding.


Desiree Fawn December 30, 2011 at 2:13 AM

My daughter will be three in one month and I can’t imagine our nursing relationship coming to an end anytime soon. Even with her heading off to her dad’s a few days a week, we’re going strong and our bond is unbreakable <3 Thank you for writing this. It's wonderful.


Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 2:23 AM

Your comment means a lot to me, Desiree, thank you! I’d love to know how old she is when she decides to stop, let me know :)


Sonya December 30, 2011 at 1:19 AM

All of these facts are the reason I am still breastfeeding my 15 1/2 month old! I want to continue through the winter to help keep her immune system strong!


Sonya December 30, 2011 at 1:20 AM

Thanks for the post!


Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 1:36 AM

That’s great to hear, Sonya. That’s why I let L still nurse to sleep as well, so he can hopefully avoid all those sniffles that are going around in kindergarten. There just never seems to be a good time to finally push weaning him — something always comes up that makes me so glad we still have that added advantage of breast milk :)


Emily @ Crunchy(ish) Mama December 30, 2011 at 1:06 AM

Really awesome post. Just the facts, ma’am. You can’t argue with facts. Way to rise above!


Dagmar December 30, 2011 at 1:09 AM

Thanks, Emily. Education is power :)


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