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Breastfeeding and Cavities

by Lucretia Nickell

How many of you have been told that your child's dental problems are due to breastfeeding? Well, I disagree, and this is why.

First of all, many things that have nothing to do with breastfeeding can cause cavities. I feel these should be looked at before assuming that breastmilk--even from nighttime nursing--is the cause. Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that can be passed from parent to child, is one common cause of cavities. Other causes of cavities are various high risk factors in pregnancy--including maternal stresses, illness, antibiotic use, and poor diet (which includes an inadequate amount of calcium in your diet)--poor family diet (such as too much juice or sugar), or prolonged exposure to sugar and poor oral hygiene.

Secondly, much more evidence supports the benefits of breastfeeding than points to it as a potential contributor to dental problems. Researchers have found that breastmilk does not lower the pH in the mouth enough to cause cavities (while almost all brands of formula do). The Streptococcus mutans bacteria needs a low pH level to thrive in, therefore breastmilk should not be blamed as the cause. Also, the antibodies in breastmilk work to kill these Streptococcus mutans bacteria. Breastmilk is also known to replace calcium and phosphorus to enamel of teeth, and, unless there is some other source of carbohydrate, breastmilk alone cannot cause cavities.

So, if your child's dental problems are being blamed on breastfeeding, look elsewhere for the cause. Breastfeeding is not to be blamed, because science says otherwise.

Reference: September-Oct. 2002 vol 19-# 5 issue of New Beginnings.

Lucretia is a new Christian mother to two little ones, Samuel and Joanne. She and her husband have been married for almost six years. They are a proud attachment parenting family. Visit her website at http://www.buttonsslingsnthings.com.

Copyright 2003
Article first published in the December 2002 issue of Gentle Mothering

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