Breastfeeding Child

A Review of the Breastfeeding Literature Relevant to Osteopathic Practice

In 2011 Denise Cornall published “A review of the breastfeeding literature relevant to osteopathic practice“.

This paper draws upon the available research to help clarify the contribution osteopathy might make in promoting and supporting breastfeeding.

The article covers epidemiological, psychological, social and cultural factors that might influence breastfeeding prevalence and success, and a very clear explanation of the neuromuscular mechanics of suckling:

“Nutritive suckling …involves coordination between many muscles of the tongue,pharynx, hyoid, anterior cervical region, and thoracic diaphragm. In particular, electromyography demonstrates most muscle activity occurs in the suprahyoid muscle groups of breastfeeding infants…”

This paper should be required reading for any osteopath involved with supporting breast-feeding children and their mothers, and will help significantly with communication and understanding when discussing these issues with parents.

More recently, a 2013 MRI study again demonstrated the benefits of breastfeeding by linking it with improved myelination and development of key brain areas. Also, children who had breast-fed longer than a year were shown to have particularly improved development in key motor co-ordination areas of the brain.

“Positive relationships between white matter microstructure and breastfeeding duration are also exhibited in several brain regions, that are anatomically consistent with observed improvements in cognitive and behavioral performance measures.”




1. Cornall, D. A review of the breastfeeding literature relevant to osteopathic practice. Int. J. Osteopath. Med. 14, 61–66 (2011).
2. Deoni, S. C. L. et al. Breastfeeding and early white matter development: A cross-sectional study. Neuroimage 82, 77–86 (2013).

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