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You could ruin her teeth!

MilkThose of you who know my philosophies on sleep training won’t be surprised when I tell you it’s not a good idea to breast or bottle feed your baby to sleep. Babies depend on this as a crutch, which means looong nights for mama when you have to get up and breastfeed or replace an empty bottle every time your child wakes up and doesn’t have a clue how to fall back to sleep.

But did you know there’s an even more serious reason not to let your baby stay on the breast or suck on that bottle of milk at night?

Most of us know that a bottle of apple juice or some other sweet drink is bad news for developing teeth. But it’s not as common knowledge that milk, which has the reputation of helping strengthen teeth, can actually cause devastating tooth decay. I can’t count the number of toddlers I’ve known who have had to have dental surgery to fix painful, rotting teeth.

Just to give you an example, one mother I knew started noticing discoloration on her eighteen-month-old’s teeth and brought her in to a specialist. The specialist informed her that the teeth would have to be drilled, filed down and capped. Her child had to go in to the hospital and be put under for the procedure, which is common practice, but obviously very traumatic for the child and the parents.

The mother insisted she didn’t give her daughter bottles of sugary juice, which she knew could cause damage. When the specialist told her that anything other than water could cause the decay, she realized it must have been because her daughter had been dependent on breastfeeding to fall asleep, and had nursed whenever she woke up at night until she was over a year old. The mother felt terrible that she hadn’t known it could cause decay.

This is a very common story, so I’m here to tell you…night nursing and bottles in the crib are just not a good idea!

So why is it happening more often?

Dentist are reporting more and more cases of what they call “chalky teeth” in kids these days. These teeth seem weaker and discolored, are susceptible to cavities and are more sensitive. The medical term is enamel “hypoplasia” or “hypomineralization.” Basically what this means is that the tooth enamel is deficient in the minerals needed to strengthen the teeth, which creates tiny, microscopic pores on the surface of the teeth that let in the bad bacteria and cause decay.

Preterm babies might be more at risk because tooth enamel is forming in utero and if the baby is born early, it can disturb the process. But this condition can affect full-term babies as well.

How bottles and breastfeeding make it worse

“Baby bottle” tooth decay is caused when a child sucks on a bottle of milk or juice for a prolonged period of time. Young kids who become dependent on bottles to soothe them can often be seen with the bottle hanging from their mouth while they’re playing, or sitting in the car seat in their car, or in the crib at naptime or bedtime. The sugars in the beverages feed bacteria, which produces acids that then attack the tooth enamel. If the enamel is already weak, like in the cases of kids with chalky teeth, there’s a good chance some cavities will form.

In the case of breastfeeding, if your baby is a comfort feeder and you use the breast to put him to sleep or soothe him, he will be spending a great deal of time with the breast in his mouth. Breast milk is full of natural sugars, which unfortunately can cause just as much harm to developing teeth as other drinks.

So what’s the solution?

Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle, and stop using breastfeeding as a tool to get your child to sleep. If you are giving your child a bottle of milk, make sure she isn’t sucking on it absently while she’s doing other things, prolonging the time spent with the nipple in her mouth. Better still, only offer water in bottles, and try a sippy-cup for milk and other beverages.

Keep an eye on those developing teeth, and if you spot anything that looks unusual, such as weak spots or discoloration, make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist!

On the topic of your baby, are you having difficulty getting your her to sleep? This is a common complaint of new moms. I created The Sleep Sense Program to be a step by step guide, to help you get your child sleeping 11 – 12 hours through the night!  

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Yes, The Sleep Sense™ Program is a great Do-It-Yourself guide for solving your baby or toddler’s sleep problems!

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The Sleep Sense Philosophy

Cry-it-out? Coddle? Co-sleep? Attachment parenting? Ferberizing?
If you’re going to let me help you with something as precious as your child’s sleep, you probably want to know a little bit about who I am and exactly how I think...

Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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