Mother’s breast milk is extremely healthy for infants because it provides immunity from common diseases and is very nutritious.
Some parents tell me that they have heard that it is impossible to get cavities from mother’s breast milk.
My experience shows me that although nursing is the best way to feed your infant, it is possible to get cavities while nursing. I have seen one year old children with cavities who have only drank mother’s milk.
All the infants with cavities on their upper teeth who never had a bottle did sleep with their mothers and nursed as often as they wanted, usually suckling all night long.
This continuous exposure to sweet milk can overcome the natural cavity-fighting abilities of milk proteins and allow bacteria to grow rapidly and help dissolve away the teeth.
Sleeping with your baby can be harmful to them in other ways too. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS, is also increased when infants sleep in the same bed as their parents.
The best way to nurse your baby is to keep them out of your bed, perhaps in a bassinet close by, and encourage them to feed very well with plenty of time to sleep and digest before another feeding.
Cavities can start forming as soon as the teeth erupt into the mouth. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth that came from the people around them, usually their mother.
The type of bacteria that cause cavities (Streptococcus mutans) make a waterproof coating that sticks them to the tooth surface.
Because bacteria cause cavities, not sugar or milk, brushing the bacteria off of teeth is the most important of the cavity prevention strategies:
brushing & flossing
receiving optimum dietary fluoride
limiting time exposed to sugar and starch
So make sure that you massage your baby’s gums with a soft cloth before they get teeth and use a soft bristle toothbrush to clean off their teeth when they erupt.
The La Leche League has some good articles and I especially liked this one on preventing cavities while nursing your infant.
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