The emotions surrounding the decision around whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby can be intense and unfortunately can involve guilt or even shame. New moms have enough to worry about, and there is absolutely no desire on our part to make any of you feel a single negative emotion about the way you choose to nourish your baby.
Our aim with this article instead provides you with knowledge about your options. We want to share with you some of our expertise so that you can be confident that whichever way you feed your baby you can also look out for their dental health.
Did You Know?
Did you know that when your baby is born, their baby teeth are already fully-formed? While it generally takes time for each tooth to erupt (push through their gums) those teeth are already present from day one. This is why dental hygiene is important even prior to the first visible tooth!
For more information about when you can expect those teeth to erupt, check out our post, “Baby Teeth: Eruption Timeline and How to Care for Them“.
While there are those who will argue for one feeding method over another, all experts agree on one fact: That newborns do not require any additional sustenance other than either breast milk or formula. Up until the age of six months, babies do not even require water. Even after introducing sips of water to your little one, milk (from the breast or formula) should remain their main source of hydration.
Bottle-Feeding with Care for Your Baby’s Dental Health
Bottle feeding can have a negative connotation because of its association with the dental term “bottle rot”. If bottle feeding is done improperly, it can cause major dental health issues for your baby. The keyword in that statement however is “can”. With knowledge and guidance, you can feed your baby by bottle without causing harm to their dental health.
Bottle rot occurs when a baby or toddler drinks milk, formula, or juices (those are the worst!) from a bottle over an extended period of time. The reason is as follows: When your baby drinks from a bottle nipple, the liquid will actually pool around inside his or her mouth causing additional exposure to the enamel of their teeth. Because of this, it is important for their bottle feeding to be an action that has an end instead of a continuous throughout the day. Here are a few guidelines so you know you are on the right track:
- Your baby should be kept awake the entire time they are feeding.
- Your baby should not be allowed to crawl or walk around carrying their bottle to take sips randomly throughout the day.
- Your baby should not be put to bed with a bottle.
Additionally, start dental hygiene early on. You won’t need a toothbrush until their teeth actually erupt, however cleaning out your baby’s mouth following a bottle-feeding by covering a single finger of your own with a clean, wet washcloth and wiping it along the insides of their cheeks and their gum line. This has the benefit of wiping free any residual milk and getting your baby prepared to eventually have a toothbrush inside of his or her mouth.
Breastfeeding and Your Baby’s Dental Health
Yes, there is sugar in breast milk. However, research shows that breast milk is not cariogenic (does not cause tooth decay). Early childhood cavities have been previously associated with breastfeeding, but further studies have shown that most of those cavities occur when a breastfed infant is exposed to supplemental foods. Lower risk of tooth decay in breastfed babies may also be attributed to the difference in suckling from a breast as opposed to suckling from a bottle. When breastfeeding, the mother’s milk will enter the baby’s mouth already behind the teeth, and when the suckling action stops, so too does the flow of milk.
What this means for breastfeeding mothers is twofold: that their milk is not actively causing harm to their babies’ teeth. Moreover, they should still start dental hygiene for their babies early on. In exactly the same way as described above for bottle-fed babies.
Furthermore, studies have shown that breastfeeding may have a positive impact on your baby’s bite structure. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), those studies have shown
“that babies who were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months were less likely to have teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites, and overbites, than those exclusively breastfed for shorter lengths of time or not at all.”
What It Can Mean for Parents
While mothers can take these aforementioned steps to ensure the dental well-being of their babes, it’s not unusual to see a slip of sorts in the mother’s own dental care. The exhaustion and stress of being a new mom can be and often is overwhelming. Consequently, new moms are more likely to grind their teeth or clench their jaws and skip their brushing teeth routines.
It shows your dedication to your baby that you’ve taken the time to read this post, and so while we have your attention; we ask you to remember to take the time for your own dental care as well. Stick with those lifelong habits of brushing twice daily, and flossing once. Keep hydrated by putting your water bottle in the diaper bag when you leave the house. Dry mouth causes an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
Visit One of Our Pediatric Dentists in Bountiful, Taylorsville, Stansbury Park, or Herriman
We recommend (as does the ADA) you bring your baby in to see us when the first tooth erupts. If they are one year old but not a tooth has erupted, it’s still time for them to come in. Bring your beautiful baby in to see us at any of our four locations in Bountiful, Taylorsville, Herriman, or Stansbury Park, Utah. Simply call us today at 435-580-8800 and we will get you scheduled at the pediatric dentist nearest you.