After visiting two pediatric dentists, I have been told that my son’s excessive amount of cavities is due to breastfeeding. Somehow, I have a hard time accepting this information. Almost every child I know was breastfeed on demand, yet my son is the only one who’s mouth is riddled with cavities. One dentist explained that when we sleep, we produce less saliva in order that we don’t choke on the saliva while we sleep. Saliva protects our teeth, thus nighttime nursing creates a situation where the sugars in breastmilk stick to the teeth. Of course, I am aware of the dangers of baby bottle mouth, but I thought the problem was with the bottle being left in the child’s mouth as they slept. The breast doesn’t stay in the mouth after the child falls asleep, so I never considered nighttime nursing a risk to dental health. I asked the pediatric dentist in San Francisco why the information regarding nighttime nursing was not promoted along with the baby bottle mouth campaign. She said that they did not want to discourage nursing, because the benefits are so great. Hmmmmm…now my son needs to go under general anesthesia to have his teeth repaired. I have asked several of my respected mother and midwife friends about the risks of nighttime nursing to dental health. One friend remembered an article in Mothering Magazine on the subject. “Big Bad Cavities: Breastfeeding Is Not the Cause” by Lisa Reagan is a very informative article that every dentist should read. Lisa writes, “More than three dozen studies showed that my son’s early cavities (also called caries) were not caused by nursing-breastmilk is not cariogenic-but by an infectious disease classified only recently as Early Childhood Caries (ECC).1 Moreover, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), breastfed children are less likely to develop this disease than their bottle-fed counterparts, and population-based studies do not support a link between prolonged breastfeeding and ECC.” We are still following our dentists’ advice to stop nighttime nursing and to brush after every daytime nursing session. However, I do plan on forwarding this great article to our dentists.
Of course, the ultimate source on breastfeeding is the La Leche League.