Breastfeeding provides a wealth of benefits to both you and your baby. However, you may be reluctant to breastfeed your baby because you may have heard alarming news stories in recent years claiming that breastfeeding is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay as your baby gets older. These stories are false, or at least misleading.
The idea that breastfeeding somehow contributes to tooth decay is only one of a number of unfortunate rumors related to breastfeeding and dental health. This article attempts to give you the true facts regarding breastfeeding and the health of your child’s mouth so that you can make an informed decision as to whether nursing your baby is the best choice.
1. Breastfeeding Does Not Cause or Contribute to Tooth Decay
Tooth decay occurs because of the reaction between sugars left behind on the teeth as residues from food and a particular species of bacteria found in the mouth called Streptococcus mutans. While breastmilk does contain sugar in the form of lactose, it does not contain the harmful bacteria. As a matter of fact, breastmilk also contains a component called lactoferrin that actually kills Streptococcus mutans. Therefore, far from promoting tooth decay, breastfeeding actually helps to prevent it.
2. Breastfeeding Can Happen Any Time of the Day
Some people think that breastfeeding at night puts your baby at greater risk for tooth decay. This is not true. You can and should nurse your baby whenever he or she requires, day or night.
What you should avoid doing, however, is putting your baby to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water. This includes breastmilk, fruit juice, or formula. Each contains sugar, and sugary liquids from a bottle can pool in the baby’s mouth and increase the risk for tooth decay.
3. Teething Does Not Necessarily Mean Weaning
The decision on when to wean your baby from the breast is entirely up to you. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of the baby’s life, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed for at least the first year. Your child’s baby teeth are likely to start erupting around six months of age, meaning that you can continue to breastfeed even after teething begins.
4. Cleaning Your Child’s Mouth Should Start Early
Regardless of how you feed your baby, you can decrease the potential for tooth decay by wiping his or her gums with a soft piece of moist gauze following each feeding and brushing with a small, soft brush once teeth start coming in.
Breastfeeding does not guarantee that your child will never have any dental problems, but it does help to set him or her on the path to good dental habits that last a lifetime. For more information, or to make an appointment, contact an office today.
Resource: Dental Care