Breastfeeding and Oral Health for Your Baby
One of the biggest decisions you can make as a new parent is whether to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby.
Some believe that breast milk is superior when it comes to nutrition and immune-boosting components, while others believe that formula is just as healthy and more convenient. As dentists, we cannot make this decision for you, but we can weigh in on the effects of breastfeeding on a baby’s oral health and development.
Important Breast Milk Nutrients
Breast milk contains nutrients your baby needs for optimal development. These include:
- Casein and other proteins to help build strong jaw muscles
- Essential fatty acids required for healthy brain development
- Other key vitamins that enable proper dental development.
These nutrients help reduce the risk of tooth decay once a baby first begins to grow their teeth. However, one crucial nutrient that breast milk lacks is Vitamin D, which is essential to a baby’s health because it helps the body absorb calcium. In many cases when babies are breast-fed exclusively, their pediatrician will recommend a Vitamin D supplement.
Breastfeeding and Facial Development
Setting aside the debate regarding the nutritional value of breast milk versus formula, there are also physical advantages that breastfed babies have over bottle fed babies. Namely, the latch that a baby must make in order to breastfeed is better for a growing baby’s jaw and facial structure than the latch needed for bottle-feeding.
The strong jaws and healthy gums that a breast fed baby will develop will decrease their risk of developing a malocclusion (bad bite) or requiring orthodontic treatment in their teens.
Preventing Tooth Decay
It is important to clean your baby’s gums after a feeding, regardless of whether she was fed from a bottle or the breast. A soft gauze pad or wash cloth gently swiped along the gums will help remove the lingering sugars which cause harmful bacteria to accumulate.
Once teeth start to grow in, you can switch to a baby toothbrush and a use small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice.) Talk to your pediatrician about whether or not you should use fluoride-free toothpaste for your baby.
Another way to help prevent tooth decay for your baby is to refrain from putting your baby to bed with a bottle (formula or breast milk) as this can lead to tooth decay known as “bottle rot.”
We are Here to Help Answer Your Breastfeeding Questions
If you still have questions about breastfeeding and your baby’s oral health, we are here for you! Call us or come to our office, and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.