The theory that babies can breathe and swallow at the same time dates back to the 19th century but is starting to trend again according to a Contemporary Pediatrics article published last week.
“The idea that babies can breathe and swallow at the same time joins a very long list of incorrect/dangerous notions developed, often by pediatricians, on the care of the newborn.”Vilensky and Henton, 2021, Contemporary Pediatrics.
The theory is that the newborn larynx is so high that the air from nose to lungs doesn’t come in contact with fluid from mouth to stomach. But the newborn epiglottis doesn’t interlock with the soft palate, it partially covers the larynx just like in adults.
The article gives some explanations about why anatomists in the past might have mistaken this. If it was true, we wouldn’t need to worry about babies choking, and I’ve seen a baby choke while breastfeeding, she shot milk right out her nose. So if you notice your baby pauses during feedings to “come up for air” rest assured, they’re human.
I highly recommend reading and sharing Vilensky and Henton’s article, as it discusses disinformation both of parents as well as paediatricians without specialist training.
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Vilensky, Joel A. and Patricia Henton. 11Aug 2021. “Can newborns breathe and swallow at the same time?” Contemporary Pediatrics.
Fauquier ENT. 1 Jan 2021. “The 4 Stages of Swallowing: Biomechanics and Bolus Movement.” Youtube.