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  • Writer's pictureMegan Dunn

ABCs, 123s

When you learned to read you probably started with the names of letters. A, B, C… then the sounds ah, buh, cuh. Eventually you started combinining cuh-ah-tuh CAT and finding similar sounding words CAT, BAT, HAT…After that came more complex combinations, trickier sounds, longer and longer words. Perhaps you added another language. Okay, but what does this have to do with breastfeeding?? Well, breastfeeding is similar in a way. Our physical development is based upon steps and skills which build upon one another. We have evolved to first get nourishment and oxygen, expel carbon dioxide and wastes through the umbilical cord and the placenta. We rely on our parents to help feed us what we need and process the waste products. After birth is a HUGE transition! Several physical changes happen and we are breathing on our own then (hopefully) placed on our parent’s chest where all the suckling we practiced in the womb begins to turn to nourishing suckling as we take in colostrum then milk in increasingly higher volumes. We are designed to continue to receive our nourishment through the physical process of feeding at our parent’s chest. Our breathing (nasal), our musculature, our reflexes (at least 20 of them) are designed for this type of feeding. The way the tongue and other supporting structures move and hold the breast over time creates our face and skull. REALLY? It does all that! Yes, function creates form. The analogy I like to use is that over time a river creates a valley and the same in happening due to the tongue and it’s function. It forms the shape of the jaw, the palate (roof of the mouth), it helps shape our sinuses and airway. Which returns into form creating function. The shape (form) of our sinuses and airway can determine if we are prone to infection, how we breathe, how we sleep. The shape (form) of our mouth and jaw can determine how we swallow, if we are more prone to reflux or snoring, if we need to somehow survive both 8th grade and braces at the same time. So is it just breastfeeding? Can we flippantly say, “Some babies just can’t breastfeed”? I don’t think we should. I don't think we should accept that a normal physiological function is impaired without finding out why and addressing it. The way we feed as an infant is a foundational action in so many ways from setting our microbiome, risk of chronic disease, risk of immune-mediated diseases, common childhood illness, to striking physical development. It's worth supporting, it’s worth fixing, it’s worth having the right information and research to actually help families and get to the root cause of the issue. This is a lifetime benefit in so many ways – probably some we aren’t even aware of because the way we are fed as infants is the foundation of our lifelong health.

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