Guest Post by Christi Boujikian, Parent and CAFF Parent Liaison
As my passion for airway health and development has grown and as someone who basically had nothing to do with this field, I am often met with confusion about why I came to care so much. My kids’ struggles were the catalyst for ending up here...which often confuses people even more! My kids look like they are breathing just fine, right? What could be going on with their airway?
It seems to boil down to unfamiliarity with what makes up and affects the airway. Not many people associate anything that has to do with the mouth, like oral function and jaw development, with the airway. What is oral function anyway!? And if you’re breathing, your airway must be fine – nose, mouth, fast, slow. It all gets the job done – what’s the big deal?!
Disordered breathing has become so normalized:
People complain or joke openly about their partner’s snoring
Parents sharing videos and commenting on social media about how cute their baby is while snoring in their crib
Disney movies portray princesses sleeping with mouths agape, gasping for air
Walk into any gym and you'll surely see most of the patrons huffing & puffing with their mouths open wide!
Not only has disordered breathing become normalized but getting your wisdom teeth out and braces is just a rite of passage these days. I don’t think I know a single person with enough jaw space for their wisdom teeth. Doesn't anyone wonder why?
OUR TONGUE-TIE JOURNEY
My journey started with my second baby. She was a colicky baby who could not latch and could not sleep. Wading through this was made even more difficult when those whom we sought out for guidance did not have any answers. Eventually, we made our way to a tongue-tie release provider. They made it sound like the tongue-tie release was the answer to our problems.
They quickly did an evaluation, confirmed the tongue tie, gave me a list of stretches to do with her, lasered her tongue, and out the door we went with the hope of big changes! Spoiler alert, nothing changed! She could still hardly drink from a bottle, couldn’t sleep, and always cried.
Miraculously, we were referred to a feeding therapist and “graduated” with no improvement whatsoever. A few months later, we had my older child released as well. I was in a rush to get his done after learning slightly more about tongue ties.
During my late-night Googling bouncing my colicky baby on the exercise ball routine, I somehow came across the work of Hallie Bulkin and started following her on Instagram. Eventually, I saw her talking about doing myofunctional/oral motor therapy after a tongue tie release and red flags to look out for – namely open mouth & low tongue posture (my babes had these red flags!). I even saw her tag a provider in my area in the comments!
About six months & one year post-release, I brought them in to do the therapy that we should have started before the release! If you’ve listened to Airway First, the CAFF podcast, for any amount of time you've probably heard those.....or perhaps at some point along on your own journey, you’ve told yourself as I did – you don’t know what you don’t know!
The therapist who we met with at the time is truly an angel! No one we’d seen previously ever listened to me, they dismissed any concerns I brought up as “normal”, and weren't concerned about what I was concerned about… but she listened, she cared, she empathized, she had resources and information!!!
By this time, I was making some small connections like all my siblings and my parents showed symptoms of tongue ties, but the only person I could force into an evaluation was my husband. It was at one of these family appointments that the therapist said something to me about it not being all about the tongue tie release and referenced the airway.
As any normal person does, I started to look more into this by watching Dr. Zaghi’s lectures and Dr. Mary Bourke’s videos that were available on YouTube and I found the Children’s Airway First Foundation podcast! I started paying attention to the information all these featured practitioners put out there.
Now I was making big connections! I then went to see an airway dentist, had a CBCT scan of my airway, and did a sleep test.
Looking back, I could see how this airway-focused care would have made such a dramatic difference to so many people close to me and even to myself. Everywhere I looked, I saw kids with their baby teeth touching, mouths hanging open, pacifiers, spouted sippy cups, kids eating from pouches, and extended bottle use. So, so, so many kids are showing signs of not getting quality sleep! Parents endlessly posting in Facebook groups in sheer desperation about their kids’ sleep, behavior, picky eating, lactation struggles, and so on. All I could think was "Everyone, EVERYONE needs to know about this!!!"
PARENTS UNITED IN AN AIRWAY MOVEMENT
I fervently wish that all parents will join me as proper airway health and development in children's #1 fans! I hope that no parent will ever have to struggle to try to find adequate support on this journey as I did. I hope they will be able to learn more before their baby is even born!
There are endless amounts of parents out there with babies already born, babies turned into toddlers, tweens & teens that desperately need these airway resources but don’t even know it yet. I want to go to the highest mountain and let all parents know airway health and development is their missing puzzle piece!
The current generation of children is seeing rates of bad bites (aka malocclusion and jaw maldevelopment) at over 90%!!! Over 90% of kids you see around today are not growing jaws to their full potential which directly affects their airway size. And no, my friends, genetics is not the driving factor here. Check out our town hall with Dr. Ben Miraglia for the full scoop on this!
You can certainly look at the mountains of research in this area, but one thing I really like is that you can see all of this with common sense and a dash of critical thinking. You can see what our ancestors’ skulls looked like and what ours now look like. Genetics alone could not have caused such quick changes to our skulls.
There were no orthodontists on the scene until the 1800s, long after humans had been around. Why would we grow teeth that are just supposed to be pulled out? Would pulling teeth and moving them back make our airways bigger or smaller? Millimeters matter when it comes to the airway. Would a shrinking airway size be good? Could performing such an essential function, like breathing, in a suboptimal way possibly be beneficial? Or would it give us just enough strength to drag on? Would you want to eat in a suboptimal way? Or would eating in a healthy way be of more benefit?
We can change the tide and bring airway health and development to the forefront as the foundational piece that it is. As Dr. Liao said in his podcast episode, "right now no one oversees kids' craniofacial and airway development". It is in the hands of the parents to seek out these airway-centered practitioners.
We are at an unfortunate time in history where this information and its urgency can be spread more easily than in the past, but it is not yet the standard of care. Of course, this can lead to many obstacles for parents including the most essential – access to care, but if we can all come to realize that this applies to us and will be of great benefit to the entire human race, we can push the standard of care in the right direction! The next generation is counting on us. Parents, let us band together!
PARENT'S PORTAL AND OTHER RESOURCES FROM CAFF
Is your child a mouth breather? Does your child have sleep issues or are they a chronic snorer? These are just two of the signs of sleep disorders in children. Education is the first step towards taking control of your child's long-term health.
As part of our collaboration with Airway Health Solutions (AHS), CAFF has created the Parent's Portal. The goal of the Parent's Portal is to provide education, resources, and support for parents of children with airway and sleep dysfunction.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming Parent’s Guide to learn what steps you can take at each stage! And let us know, what started your journey? What opened your eyes? Because once you see this silent epidemic, you can’t unsee it!