Nursing your baby to sleep, or giving a baby a bottle of milk or juice at night, does more than create bad sleep habits. It can lead to tooth decay known as baby bottle mouth.
WHAT IS BABY BOTTLE MOUTH?
A condition where the infant’s teeth are extremely decayed (in some cases nearly eroded) from prolonged exposure to sugars trapped in baby’s mouth.
These sugars come from milk or juice, often in a bottle or from nursing baby to sleep throughout the night. The fluids pool behind the teeth, particularly the upper teeth, and start to erode the enamel. Although mostly associated with bottle use, prolonged nursing can also cause baby bottle mouth.
Baby bottle mouth will usually first appear at the back of the teeth as brown spots – gums may also be damaged. It must be treated by a dentist right away. Though baby teeth do fall out, baby bottle mouth can lead to more serious issues such as infection or speech delays.
HOW TO AVOID BABY BOTTLE MOUTH
Take care of your baby’s teeth from the second they appear, regularly brushing the teeth & gums and examining the teeth regularly – the Canadian Dental Association provides some useful resources on dental care.
Wean from the bottle to a cup before the first birthday.
Don’t let your child walk around with a sippy cup all day.
Avoid juice altogether.
And, most importantly, avoid letting your baby have a bottle (unless water), or prolonged nursing, through the night.
Although you may choose to continue nursing well beyond your child’s first birthday, it’s best to avoid letting your toddler nurse to sleep or while sleeping to avoid baby bottle mouth.
Falling asleep on the breast or bottle is a very common issue that drives parents to seek our help.