Too often, friends, family, healthcare providers, and, uh, even strangers tell breastfeeding moms that they should stop nursing when baby gets teeth. And as mothers ourselves, we know moms get a lot of confusing advice. We’re here as moms and dental healthcare professionals to offer a few facts about breastfeeding older babies and toddlers. (SPOILER ALERT: There’s no need to stop because of teeth!)
Five Oral Health Facts for Breastfeeding Moms
1. Breastfeeding should not be painful. From the very beginning, there can be an oral health reason to consult a dentist or other healthcare provider trained in lip and tongue ties. If a baby can’t get a good latch despite help from a lactation consultant, there may be tiny bands of extra tissue in the mouth preventing baby from opening wide. These “ties” can cause problems breastfeeding, among other complications. The good news is that there is a simple procedure to correct the problem. (Dr. Asha is certified to diagnose and treat lip and tongue ties.)
2. Take care of your own teeth. Cavities are contagious! If you or other family members (who will be kissing on those adorable cheeks) have untreated dental decay, you can actually pass the decay-causing bacteria to baby. Make sure that you visit the dentist for your own checkups too.
3. Visit the dentist when teeth first appear. There are so many milestones for a baby’s first year. One of them needs to be a dental checkup! Whenever the first teeth start to come in or at the age of one–whichever comes first–it’s time to see the dentist. At Super Kids Austin, we have a space just for our superbaby patients. Dr. Asha can explain how to best clean your baby’s teeth and address any concerns you have. (Aside from being a dentist, she is also a mom of three.)
4. No biting allowed. The fear that a baby will bite the breast is probably the biggest reason that people tell moms to stop breastfeeding. But when correctly latched, baby’s tongue should cover bottom teeth, protecting them from milk and protecting you from sharp teeth. Sometimes, babies with new teeth may try to bite while not actively nursing. Baby is exploring the world and testing to see how it all works. Mom’s job is to let baby know that biting hurts and it’s not allowed. La Leche League has some good tips on this.
5. Breastfeeding past infancy doesn’t interfere with jaw development. In fact, breastfeeding can help the maxilla (jaw bone) to form properly. Extended use of pacifiers and narrow bottle nipples can, however, cause problems. If you’re concerned about you child’s use of pacifiers, bottles, or cups, speak with a dentist who can recommend alternatives.
At Super Kids Austin, we support breastfeeding families because we believe dental health begins from birth. We want our patients to have healthy smiles and healthy bodies for life.