Teething pains aside, there’s nothing more charming when your little one opens his or her mouth and gives you a gap-toothed smile. There’s just something about those little baby teeth as they come in one at a time, providing your bouncing babe with charm and personality like nothing else.
It’s generally recommended that, if you are breastfeeding, that you provide your child breastmilk for up to the first 2 years of his or her life. As most infants begin teething around their first year, it’s almost inevitable that your little girl or boy will be breastfeeding with growing teeth.
Despite this, many mothers who breastfeed their children are wary of when their kid’s teeth start growing in. There are plenty of fears – many unfounded – about how breastfeeding while a baby’s teeth are growing will affect a child’s development. Here’s what you need to know about this hot-button issue.
No, It Doesn’t Hurt – Probably
“Well, this is going to hurt now, isn’t it?” Almost every new mother has the same thought once their baby’s first few teeth come in. The truth is that no, a nursing baby whose teeth are coming in doesn’t hurt – as long as they’re latched on properly. Of course, the truth is that a child that’s not latched on is going to do a number on your nipple whether he or she has teeth or not.
It’s all in the positioning. When your baby is latched on to your breast properly, it’s physically impossible for him or her to bite you – your nipple is protected by the baby’s gums and tongue. However, if your child shifts positions while you’re breastfeeding them – possibly because they’re uncomfortable because they’re teething – this can lead to some discomfort or even pain from biting.
Tooth Decay Can Happen to Breastfed Babes
Once your baby begins developing teeth, this means that you’ll have to provide those teeth extra care while breastfeeding. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you breastfeed directly, if you pump and fill a bottle, or if you bottle feed from formula – new teeth need to be taken care of to prevent oral issues such as baby-bottle tooth decay (BBTD).
Breastmilk in itself doesn’t promote BBTD. However, baby-bottle tooth decay can occur when new baby teeth are habitually exposed to any liquid besides water. If your child typically falls asleep while nursing – and he or she falls asleep with breastmilk still in their mouths – this puts them at risk for BBTD as much as if they’re bottle-fed before bed. Removing your breast from your baby’s mouth if he or she falls asleep nursing is more than enough to help prevent BBTD.
Never Too Early for Good Oral Hygiene
Even if he or she is breastfed, once your baby does start getting teeth, it’s a great time to adopt some early oral hygiene habits. In fact, you can even start before the first tooth erupts, by wiping your baby’s gums with a damp cloth or a piece of gauze daily from birth. Once your baby starts teething, continue to wipe after feedings and before bed for best results.
Eventually you do want to switch to using a toothbrush and a reasonably small amount of toothpaste, possibly once your child grows enough to begin brushing with your aid. Worried about whether you should begin using fluoridated toothpaste on your child’s teeth? Be sure to contact your family dentist. He or she will be able to recommend whether you need to – and how much you should use – in order to provide the best oral hygiene for your baby.