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Breastfeeding And Teething: Your Baby's Oral Health

Welcoming a newborn into the world is exciting for the whole family, but as most new mothers know, breastfeeding and teething will be a part of your immediate focus. Being a new mother might mean you'll take part in breastfeeding your newborn, and although it is one of the healthiest ways for a baby to receive its nutrition, you may still see the merits of a bottle-fed plan. No matter what, your little one's oral health should be of great concern during this time.

Why Breast Feeding Is Important

Breast milk isn't just easier for your baby to digest, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); it's also more readily accessible than a store-bought formula. In addition:

  • It needs no preparation
  • It contains all the nutrients an infant needs
  • It has many components that formula does not; breast milk helps to protect your baby from many diseases and infections

Curbing Risk Either Way

Although the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests "unrestricted, nocturnal breastfeeding after eruption of the child's first tooth can lead to an increased risk of dental caries," this can apply to bottle-fed babies as well. The role of the parent in this case should be to make sure, after the last feeding prior to bedtime, the baby's gums (and any erupted teeth) are wiped with either a piece of gauze, soft washcloth or soft-finger toothbrush. This will help to decrease any incidence of decay in teeth already present.

It also helps to get the infant used to having their gums massaged prior to teething. And when their teeth start to erupt, start the habit of having their teeth cleaned with the products they'll use throughout childhood.

How Foods Fit In

The introduction of soft baby foods happens between four and six months in a baby's life. Your pediatrician will probably have your infant start with a cereal and then move on to pureed vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, peas, sweet potato, bananas and peaches.

Because you'll also be introducing more solid foods – in addition to breast milk and/or bottles – to your infant's diet, it is even more important to keep your baby's teeth clean. Start with a soft wet washcloth or piece of gauze to wipe down your baby's gums, just as you would during the phase of breastfeeding and teething. If there is evidence of new teeth present, now would be a good time to introduce his or her Colgate® My First® Toothbrush and Colgate® My First® Fluoride-Free Toothpaste to brush away any residue left behind by their new diet. Just use a pea-sized smear across the (soft) bristles of a baby toothbrush and clean off any debris as gently as you can.

Providing this proper oral care to your child's teeth will help to provide a lifetime of healthy smiles.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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