February, though the shortest month of our calendar year, is a month jam packed with celebration and awareness. Of course, we recognize and salute Black History Month! We also celebrated Go Red for Women day (which is in celebration of Healthy Heart Month). We want to close out the month of February discussing Breastfeeding and Infant Dental Health in celebration of National Children's Dental Health Month.
We know that breastfeeding has numerous benefits including reduced instances of ear infections and SIDS, just to name a few.
We also know the World Health Organization recommends the initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and in addition to complimentary foods, continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.
Unfortunately, parents are often encouraged to wean as their infant/child's teeth begin to emerge. While these recommendations may be well intended, these recommendations are based off of out dated practices.
The late Dr. Brian Palmer, D.S.S. was a great breastfeeding advocate and his work may have been a catalyst to some of the newer research we have today.
Here is what we now know thanks to the most recent research:
Infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing cavities when compared to their non breastfed counterparts
There IS an increased risk of cavities for breastfed children over the age of 12 months - which is probably contributed to night time feedings (if the baby is holding milk in their mouth) and sub optimal dental hygiene.
SO.. How do we combat this? If your child falls asleep on the breast, simply remove your breast from the child's mouth. Toddlers are not the most cooperative when it comes to teeth brushing (ask me how I know :) ). Start with wiping their teeth with a clean cloth. Make teeth brushing fun and interactive. Use toys, books, and games to help encourage and motivate. Also, work with your dentist and pediatrician in creating the best plan for your child.