Breastfeeding Health for Baby Teeth
At Origin Dental Wellness, we have the privilege to work with a lot of young families. The joy in this is that we see a lot of Moms and Dads who are genuinely engaged in the well-being of their children. They are often constantly educating themselves on the best nutrition and resources to keep their families healthy. It is rare for a day to go by that we don’t see at least one family with multiple children. What a privilege to be part of their care!
With this privilege also comes the responsibility to share with parents about the relationship between breastfeeding and health of the teeth. Breastfeeding is a wonderful choice for most families, giving baby immunity and health benefits for a lifetime. However, what we have found that many families are not aware of, is that breast milk has sugar in it. And this sugar can decay teeth!
We see many children around the age of 18-24 months after Mom has noticed that the front teeth have yellow or brown spots on them. Some are familiar with baby bottle tooth decay, but not many are aware of breast milk tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when the teeth are exposed to frequent and long-term contact with sugar in liquids. It is often associated with putting a baby to bed with a bottle of milk or formula. The baby falls asleep with the sugary liquid resting in the mouth. Because the first baby tooth often erupts around the age of six months, one to two years later, cavities will begin to be apparent.
Unfortunately, the same thing occurs with breastfed babies who are nursed throughout the night. Breast milk contains the sugar lactose. There are 17 grams of lactose in one cup of human breast milk. This corresponds to 4 ½ teaspoons of sugar in eight ounces of milk. That is a lot of sugar! If this sugar is allowed to soak in the teeth throughout the night, cavities will develop. Treating these cavities can be stressful for a Mom and Dad because it usually involves sedation.
The best advice we can give breastfeeding families is to not allow baby to fall asleep while breastfeeding at night once the baby teeth have erupted. This gives the baby an opportunity to swallow all of the milk and not allow it to soak on the teeth, softening the enamel of those sweet little pearls! We love baby teeth and want to keep them strong!