Bottle feeding and your baby's teeth: what you should know
There's a lot to consider when you first start feeding your baby.
Will you use breast or bottle? What kind of starter foods will be best for them? At what point should weaning be happening?
Probably one of the most important factors to consider though is how to look after your baby's teeth.
Teething can be a difficult time for a lot of infants, and tooth decay and bacterial attacks are the last thing that a child needs.
Whether you choose breast or bottle, keeping your child's teeth in good shape is paramount, however bottle feeling your baby does carry more risk when it comes to decay.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay happens when the bacteria and natural sugars found in formula, milk, and juices, cling to the baby's teeth and damage them.
It occurs more frequently due to the use of bottles and sippy cups because of the positioning of the liquid flow. This is likely to happen when anything other than water is being consumed.
Why is it important to look after baby teeth?
Your baby's teeth will fall out over time, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to worry about their state.
Baby teeth become adult teeth, meaning that if baby teeth are crooked or damaged, the same could happen when adult teeth arrive.
Similarly, babies need their teeth to chew, smile, and speak. These teeth will act as placeholders for adult teeth, which could become damaged leading to poor eating habits and speech problems if they are not looked after.
How does tooth decay in babies happen?
There are a couple of things that cause tooth decay in babies - the first is over exposure to natural sugars found in formula, fruit juice, and milk.
These sugars cling to the baby's teeth after the liquid has been consumed, creating acids that then attack the teeth. This is far more likely to happen when a baby drinks from a sippy cup or a bottle due to the positioning of the container.
The second is the old trick of giving your baby a bottle or soother dipped in sugar to calm them down before bed.
Although your baby might like the taste, the sugar will coat their teeth as they sleep, making it easier for the acid to strike.
Any liquid or food other than water has the potential to cause decay in baby teeth. This includes food or liquids on spoons or bottles that have been tasted before by a parent, whose saliva is still present on the device.
How should you prevent baby tooth decay?
Cleaning your baby's gums with a baby washcloth regularly to remove any excess bacteria is very important.
Once your baby's teeth start coming down, you should start brushing them gently once a day using a baby toothbrush and a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
After 12 months, you should brush your child's teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste until they are three-years-old.
Ensuring your baby does not have a soother or bottle containing formula, milk, juice, soft drinks, sugar water, or sugared drinks before bed is also important.
If you want your baby to have a bottle or sippy cup at any stage, it should only contain water.
Teaching your child to drink from a regular cup ASAP is a good idea - the liquid is less likely to pool around the teeth this way.