You may have heard medical professionals as well as friends and family telling you that breastfeeding is the best for your baby especially in the first year of your baby’s life!
Breast milk helps your baby to fight off infections, reduce health risks like ear infections, SIDS, asthma, and obesity in young ones. Breastfeeding also helps moms to lower their chances of ovarian and breast cancer and the act of breastfeeding itself undoubtedly helps a strong bond to grow between mommy and baby.
Does Teething Interfere with Breastfeeding?
When it comes to teething and breastfeeding, you don’t have to stop breastfeeding when your baby starts teething. Rather, your baby will want to feel an extra sense of comfort while teething, and breastfeeding is one of the best ways to offer that.
Research suggests that babies who are breastfed for at least six months are less likely to have alignment issues with their teeth. These could be misaligned teeth, open bites, or cross bites, compared to babies who are breastfed very little or not at all.
The World Health Organization says that moms should breastfeed their babies up to the age of two and the American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies should be breastfed for at least the first year of their lives.
However, each mom and baby is different, and you should do what is right for you, regardless of whether your baby is teething or not. When you want to stop breastfeeding is a personal choice.
Will Breastfeeding Affect Babies Teeth?
Many moms find themselves asking, “Will breastfeeding affect my baby’s teeth?”
One of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding is that it reduces the risk of tooth decay caused by the bottle (especially by sugary drinks). Pooling of liquid other than water in your baby’s mouth for long periods can surely cause tooth decay. When a baby’s teeth are exposed to milk, fruit juice, or formula, prolonged exposure causes decay, especially in the teeth located in the upper front.
However, breast milk does not pool in a baby’s mouth the same way that bottle milk does. This is because if the baby is not actively sucking, breast milk is not drawn out. When a baby is sucking breast milk, the milk goes from behind the teeth, so pooling of the breast milk is not an issue.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Breast milk like formula contains sugar even though breast milk is natural. This means that babies who are breastfed can still develop cavities. But the main cause of tooth decay because of the presence of bacteria known as streptococcus mutants. This bacterium increases in the presence of too much sugar, or less saliva, and low pH level in saliva.
Once your baby has teeth, strep mutants can be transferred from the mother or caregiver through saliva to saliva contact. Avoid sharing spoons, cups, chewing food for your baby, putting your baby’s pacifier in your mouth, or giving wet kisses on the mouth.
So if you ask, “Is breastfeeding bad for babies’ health?” the short answer is no. Breast milk alone will not cause dental caries, but it is the other factors that are responsible. It is noteworthy to mention that breast milk contains lactoferrin which helps to kill the strep mutants responsible for tooth decay.
Some babies develop tooth decay because of genetic or hereditary problems, or defects in their tooth enamel, or increased levels of the strep mutant bacteria.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, you need to care for your child’s teeth right from the start.
- Start by wiping your baby’s gums with a moist washcloth a few days after birth.
- As soon as the teeth start appearing, brush your baby’s twice a day using fluoride toothpaste designed for babies. You don’t have to use much just a smear will do.
- Once your child starts solids, allow your baby to sip water after meals to rinse the mouth.
Practicing good dental hygiene and taking care of your baby’s teeth right from the start, will help to prevent many dental problems. You can always take your child to the dentist just to make sure that everything is right on track!