Breastfeeding: 6 Things Nursing Moms Should Know About Dental Health
Breastfeeding is one of the first (and most personal) decisions a mother makes for her baby. It can help your baby’s body fight infections and reduce health risks like asthma, ear infections, SIDS and obesity in children. Nursing moms may lower their chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. But did you know breastfeeding can impact the dental health of both baby and mom? Here’s how:
Breastfeeding May Help Build a Better Bite
Babies that are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to have crooked teeth. These babies were seen to be less likely to develop open bites, crossbites and overbites than babies who breastfed for less than six months or not at all.
Still, this doesn’t mean your exclusively breastfed baby won’t need braces someday. Other factors, including genetics, pacifier use, and thumbsucking, affect alignment. “Every baby, every child is different.
The best thing for mom to do is to take the child to the dentist and make sure the dentist is able to monitor eruption, that baby teeth are coming out at the right time and permanent teeth are coming in at the right time.
You Don’t Have to Wean When Your Baby Gets Teeth
It’s a question that often pops up in parenting message boards and conversations with new moms: Should I stop breastfeeding when my baby starts teething? The answer is not if you don’t want to.
The American Academy of Pediatric’s recommends breastfeeding for the first year of a baby’s life; the World Health Organization encourages moms to go for two. As it goes with breastfeeding, every child is different, every mother is different. You should stop breastfeeding when you think it’s the best for you and the baby but not just because the teeth come in.
Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Another benefit of exclusive breastfeeding, is a reduced risk of baby bottle tooth decay the frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. This type of tooth decay often occurs when a baby is put to bed with a bottle – even ones containing formula, milk or fruit juice. (Water is fine because the teeth won’t be bathed in sugary liquids for a prolonged time.) It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected.
Breastfed Babies Can Still Get Cavities
It’s one of the most common questions nursing mothers ask: Can breastfeeding cause cavities? Yes, it can. Although natural, breast milk, just like formula, contains sugar. That is why, breastfed or bottlefed, it’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. A few days after birth, begin wiping your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth every day. Then, brush her teeth twice a day as soon as that first tooth emerges. Use fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice.
Need Dental Work Done? Double Check Your Medications
If you need to have a dental procedure that requires medication while nursing, check with your dentist, personal physician and pediatrician to make sure it is safe for baby.
It’s not only safe to go to the dentist while you’re pregnant and while you’re nursing, it’s very important to do so for the best health of your child.
Mom, Take Care of Yourself
A dip in dental care could lead to more gum disease and cavities. Cavity prevention is especially crucial for moms, as even the simple act of sharing a spoon with could transfer that bacteria into your baby’s mouth. It’s really important to do the basics: Brush twice a day, floss once a day. See your dentist regularly. Make sure you have prevented decay and don’t have any cavities so you don’t transfer that to your baby.
All moms need to stay hydrated, especially if breastfeeding. Not drinking enough water, that in itself is a very dangerous thing for your mouth. If we have a dry mouth, we put ourselves at risk for gum disease, for cavities, so many things.
And there’s one last piece of advice for all moms. Just like if you’re on an airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you put it on your child. If you’re not healthy, you will not have the time and the energy to make sure your children are also healthy.