I won't get into all of his hypotheses here, but I was interested in what he says about SIDS. Human babies have unique mouths and airways. Their epiglottis, or the flap that covers the airway when you swallow, is high up in the back of the mouth. It comes into contact with the soft palate, or the soft back of the roof of the mouth. The soft human nipple encourages the tongue and lower jaw to come forward in the mouth, and pulls the epiglottis up, reinforcing its position.
|The epiglottis is that thin white thing clamping onto the back of the roof of the mouth, preserving airflow from the nose to the lungs. From a slide by Palmer.|
|Note the gap between the epiglottis and the roof of the mouth, allowing the tongue to nearly block the airway. Also note the lower jaw is pushed back. Palmer notes this adult probably had sleep apnea. In an infant this may cause SIDS.|
You can read his presentations (in PDF format) on SIDS and breastfeeding here. They're a bit anatomy-heavy but have fun slides like this:
|Those are some nice teeth.|
Maybe this doesn't seem interesting to everyone, but to me, SIDS is a perplexing event that requires explanation. Also weird is the occurrence of "difficult airways" at work: people who are just really difficult to intubate. Sometimes it's due to overweight, or biting, but I wonder how often it's due to misshapen palates, jaws, and oropharynxes. A difficult intubation in an emergency can be absolutely fatal. Breastfeeding might help in more ways than we have previously imagined.