Breastfeeding Benefits Baby’s Oral Health Development
Most new moms in Edmonton have heard that breastfeeding can help provide their baby with good nutrition, antibodies and a host of other benefits, but did you know that breastfeeding also helps with a baby’s oral health development? A 2015 study from the medical journal Pediatrics found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months were 72% less likely to develop crooked teeth. Babies were also less likely to develop open bite or overbite than babies breastfed for less than 6 months. The reason for this boils down to anatomy and the amount of work a baby has to do to feed. When breastfeeding, the mother’s nipple generally sits closer in the mouth to the baby’s throat, avoiding the child’s teeth and limited contact with what dentists call “cariogenic substances, in plain speak that means things that cause tooth decay. A baby is also forced to suck on the mother’s nipple in order to draw milk whereas a bottle allows the liquid to gently flow into the child’s mouth with very little effort. Of course there are other factors that play into whether a child will develop oral health challenges such as genetics and how often they use a pacifier or suck their thumb.
In no way do I want to suggest that moms who are unable to breastfeed or who chose not to are harming their child. They have made the best choice for their family. For mom’s who are formula feeding their baby, there are a few things you can do to help baby ensure their baby’s oral health. Limiting a child’s use of a bottle and transitioning them to a sippy cup as quickly as possible helps. All children should have regular visits to the dentist starting within 6 months of their first tooth erupting. Babies should also have their mouth washed daily whether they are breastfed or not. We’ll go over how to clean a baby’s teeth and mouth in a blog later this month.