The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of two years in order to give a child the best chance at a healthy future. There are several proven benefits of breastfeeding, ranging from an improved immune system to a higher level of mental and physical development. Therefore, it is definitely a good idea to breastfeed for as long as possible.
What Are Early Childhood Caries?
Early childhood caries (ECC) is an infectious oral disease that can develop when a young child is exposed to large quantities of sugar in their diet. To help prevent your child from dealing with ECC, you should limit their sugar intake, clean their teeth on a regular basis and, after 6 months of age, give them nothing but water to drink overnight. Often this last precaution is the hardest for mothers to adhere to partly because of the convenience of nursing pillows and other similar gear that have made it more comfortable to feed babies in the middle of the night.
Can a Child Get ECC from Breastmilk?
There have been several conflicting studies that have tried to determine if breastfeeding contributes to ECC. In fact, a 2007 study stated that there was no evidence to link these two things together, but more recent studies have indicated that breastfeeding can have an impact on your child’s risk of developing ECC. However, the risk is no greater than it would be if your baby was being bottle fed, and this would rob your child of many much-needed nutrients.
How Can I Prevent ECC while Breastfeeding?
ECC is typically diagnosed after a young child begins to exhibit broken, brown and painful teeth. This condition can cause a lifetime of dental issues, especially if it is not treated immediately. Although there is some evidence that links breastfeeding to this condition, there are several ways to provide your baby with all of the health benefits of breast milk without causing them to develop ECC.
- Clean Your Baby’s Teeth Regularly – Wiping down your baby’s teeth and gums after they breastfeed is the best way to prevent ECC from occurring.
- Minimize Nighttime Feedings after Six Months – Most cases of ECC that are linked to breastfeeding stem from nighttime feedings when it is impossible to properly clean the baby’s teeth. Therefore, dentists recommend developing a sleep routine with your baby that keeps them from nursing throughout the night after their teeth start to come in.
- Avoid Breastfeeding before Nap Time – Although it might be impossible to prevent your baby from breastfeeding for a few minutes before bed or nap time, it is beneficial to minimize the amount of time that they spend drinking breast milk before they fall asleep.
Ultimately, it is still in your child’s best interests to be breastfed, but you need to take some precautions to help reduce their risk of developing ECC. As long as you take the proper steps, they can receive all of the necessary nutrients without risking their dental health.
As a mother herself, Bethany Gillis is acutely aware of the countless controversial issues that mothers face. She offers this information in hopes that it will bring clarity to mothers debating the facts about breastfeeding. She strongly encourages the use of modern conveniences such as nursing pillows in order to achieve breastfeeding success.