Katha Seacord of Millboro knows about mouths
Most of my memories of early parenting aren’t nearly as fraught with the stress of babies crying, or changing diapers as they were with wondering if I was doing the right things. It turns out it was a good thing neither of our kids were dedicated to pacifiers because it was better for them. I’d never heard of the five distinct functions of the mouth until I met Katha Seacord, of Millboro. myofunctional therapist. I asked why a child’s mouth would not just naturally grow and develop correctly.
“Well to answer that we need to understand ontogeny. Ontogeny is the process through which a system grows and develops to perform specialized functions. Ontogeny begins at birth and reaches maturity around 18 to 25 years of age. Ontogeny includes both genetics and function. From birth to age four there is a large increase in the development of the oral cavity including the acquisition of the primary teeth.”
And here are all the things going on in our mouths without our even thinking: they are: “the physiologic rest posture, including nasal breathing, normal, saliva swallowing, proper chewing and swallowing of food, liquid swallows, and speech.”
So the next thing I’m wondering is what can we do to help our children’s mouths grow and develop normally?
“One of my patients was soon to become a new father, and asked me this very question. He was determined to do everything possible for his child to avoid the myofuntional, and extensive orthodontic problems he had had as a child. Here’s the information I gave him which heand his wife implemented as soon as their daughter Talia was born, because normal function begins at birth.
Are you saying nursing and bottle-feeding have different impacts on how the mouth will grow and develop?
“Yes, nursing at the breast is the physiologic catalyst or initiating function, that sets up the specialized functions of normal nasal breathing, normal tongue posture, and normal swallowing patterns that we want children to use through the process of ontogeny and into adulthood.”
What happens if a mom has trouble nursing? What would you recommend then?
“Well if there are problems nursing, check with a lactation specialist to determine if the lingual frenum, which is a tissue under the tongue, or the maxillary labial frenum, which is a tissue under the upper lip is restricted making it difficult for the infant to latch on or seal their lips properly to create the proper sucking function.”
Katha Seacord also had some advice for moms who had given nursing their baby’s first six months their best try, or had to return to work.
“Use the smallest bottle nipple to encourage vigorous sucking, then eliminate the bottle by age one or earlier.”
Is the shape and size of the bottle nipple important, and why?
“When a child nurses, the breast nipple conforms to the oral cavity, and the muscles work in the way they were intended. But when a foreign object goes in the mouth, the oral cavity adopts to the foreign object, and the muscles develop incorrectly, and work incorrectly.” Katha’s expertise includes ways to address most issues, which even if they are results of early childhood habits, can continue into adulthood.
She is a retired myofunctional therapist who lives in Millboro, and does still work by appointment with some clients locally. Allegheny Mountain Radio will offer continued conversations with her in the future.