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Thread: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Default nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    I'm still nursing my 2.5YO to sleep and night-nursing (once or twice a night, as soon as she's got the letdowns she comes off or I take her off the breast). I CANNOT imagine stopping those, so much as I cherish them. But I've been told by some people (including 2 dentists) that nursing to sleep and/or night nursing can cause teeth problems. My DD DOES have a problem - not cavities (yet?) but discoloration and slightly pitted surface on the top front teeth. She has no pain right now. I've taken her to two dentists; one said those are developing cavities and the other said it's "enamel defect". I'm getting a third opinion but in the meantime I keep doubting myself if I'm doing Dd harm by nursing her to sleep and night nursing. What's your view/experience regarding this?

    FWIW we've been taking good care of her teeth right from the start with brushing and flossing daily after each main meal. She gets ZERO sweets or juice.


    First time, SAH mom to my precious daughter born October 2009
    Nursing 27 months and counting... I still love nursing so much and am SAD thinking the end can come anytime now...

  2. #2
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    May 2006
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    This article from kellymom addresses cavities and breastfeeding: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/tooth-decay/. Short synopsis: if your kid has dental decay, it's probably not breastfeeding that's at fault.

    I think you're on the right track eliminating juice and sugary snacks. When you have a kid with a possible enamel weakness, it may also make sense to make sure your LO has some time periods during the day when she's not snacking, giving her mouth a chance to cleanse itself. I know that's hard when you have a toddler, since they are often all-day grasses!
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3
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    Apr 2008
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    There are a number of different thoughts on the subject. Some kids have weak teeth whereas others have very strong teeth/enamel. It may have nothing to do with night nursing. There is no actual evidence directly linking the two, however the logic does make sense (to me, anyway). *I* believe that when anything sits in your baby's mouth for a long time it's bound to affect the teeth. My dentist doesn't believe that night nursing leads to cavities, however, he has the same sort of thinking that I do and agreed that popping in a pacifier after nursing can't hurt and will cause baby to swallow whatever is left in his/her mouth.

    I night nursed until my ds was over 2.5 but I would unlatch and roll him over instead of letting him fall to sleep on the breast.

    My ds is now 4 and has already had cavities filled. Even with the precautions I took (giving him a pacifier after nursing until he was about 8 months old, and then not allowing him to fall asleep with milk in his mouth) he ended up with discolouration and cavities.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the research doesn't say they are directly linked, but I can see how sitting milk could be a factor....
    ~Jenn~


    mother of 2 boys!
    08/14/98~~03/20/08

    Birth: 7lbs 12oz, 1 year: 22lbs 11oz
    until he self-weaned 4 days before his third birthday ... still on occasion ... and happily

    ************************************************** ************************************************** *****************
    People need to understand that when they're deciding between breastmilk and formula, they're not deciding between Coke and Pepsi.... They're choosing between a live, pure substance and a dead substance made with the cheapest oils available. ~Chele Marmet

  4. #4
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    I night-nursed Lilah until she was 2 years old and we didn't really start brushing her teeth until she was almost 2. Maybe we brushed them once or twice a week between 18 months and 2 years? She hasn't had any cavities or discoloration on her teeth. We did start brushing them nightly when she was 2 and now we also brush them in the morning a few times a week. We're working towards brushing them every morning and every night. We have probably flossed her teeth a total of 5 times. We brush Trixie's teeth every night and have since she was about 10 months old. We'll probably brush them twice a day when we finally get all the way there with Lilah, since we'll have a routine in place. She night nurses all night long and will for another year, I imagine. She also has no cavities or discoloration.

    I think that there is a large genetic component to it. I would be more inclined to believe the second dentist about the enamel defect. I have never had a cavity and I can guarantee that my mom was not brushing my teeth once or twice a day when I was a small child. I think the fluoride in the water and the hard enamel on my teeth protected me from cavities.
    Tracie

    Mommy to
    Lilah 10/08 nursed 25 months
    Beatrix 01/11 nursed 30 months

  5. #5
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    There is a good discussion of this concern in the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (2010) I will try to condense it here briefly but I suggest anyone with these concerns look at that info. Much of the information available online on tooth decay does not include the latest research.

    Studies clearly show no link between nursing into toddlerhood and tooth decay. On the contrary, breastfeeding & breastmilk are good for teeth. Nor is there any indication night nursing contributes to cavities or that weaning or night weaning helps prevent/minimize tooth decay. Nursing children (unlike those left with bottles overnight) swallow when they nurse, even in thier sleep, so I am not aware of any evidence that there is a need for pacifiers to prevent tooth decay, also wiping teeth down after night nursings does not seem to have any effect.

    What is important to help prevent/minimize tooth decay according to experts is bringing baby to the dentist for cleanings once teeth erupt and brushing twice a day. It is important to brush at night to remove the carbs left on tooth surfaces by foods baby and todders have had during the day, not breastmilk.

    But there are many causes for tooth decay & breastfeeding cannot prevent tooth decay, so some breastfed children will have tooth decay, just as some non-breastfed children will.

    And because breastfeeding is the preferred fall guy for all kinds of normal childhood issues, some people will continue to blame breastfeeding for cavities no matter what the research says. but even the ADA states there is NO LINK. http://www.ada.org/3143.aspx

  6. #6
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    My second child has exactly what you describe on the front teeth, and two dentists have NEVER asked me about breastfeeding or bottle use when discussing them. They both said it is an enamel defect. Hypoplastic enamel runs in my family.

    We are not even doing anything about it, and his front teeth have been like this since they erupted. I can't wait until they fall out.
    Susan
    Mama to my all-natural boys: Ian, 9-4-04, 11.5 lbs; Colton, 11-7-06, 9 lbs, in the water; Logan, 12-8-08, 9 lbs; Gavin, 1-18-11, 9 lbs; and an angel 1-15-06
    18+ months and for Gavin, born with an incomplete cleft lip and incomplete posterior cleft palate
    Sealed for time and eternity, 7-7-93
    Always babywearing, cosleeping and cloth diapering. Living with oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD. Ask me about cloth diapering and sewing your own diapers!

  7. #7
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    This makes me so angry. My dentist on every time I am in tells me not to night nurse, and to quickly night wean to prevent cavities. Bfing does not pool milk around the teeth like it would if a baby was sleeping drinking a bottle, the position of nipple in the mouth makes the milk immediately swallowed. As if bfing moms don't have enough challenges as it is, we have to feel guilty about possibly rotting our LOs teeth. Man.....I get so pi$$ed each time I hear this!
    Mirkka

    Mama to DD born September 7, 2010, and DS born October 28, 2012 and Wife to DH July 5, 2008

    We love and love

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*mommal View Post
    This article from kellymom addresses cavities and breastfeeding: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/tooth-decay/. Short synopsis: if your kid has dental decay, it's probably not breastfeeding that's at fault.

    I think you're on the right track eliminating juice and sugary snacks. When you have a kid with a possible enamel weakness, it may also make sense to make sure your LO has some time periods during the day when she's not snacking, giving her mouth a chance to cleanse itself. I know that's hard when you have a toddler, since they are often all-day grasses!
    My toddler has never all-day grazers (is that what you meant? ) at all. She has 3 main meals and 1-2 snacks, plus frequent breastfeeding.

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*sch.mommy View Post
    There are a number of different thoughts on the subject. Some kids have weak teeth whereas others have very strong teeth/enamel. It may have nothing to do with night nursing. There is no actual evidence directly linking the two, however the logic does make sense (to me, anyway). *I* believe that when anything sits in your baby's mouth for a long time it's bound to affect the teeth. My dentist doesn't believe that night nursing leads to cavities, however, he has the same sort of thinking that I do and agreed that popping in a pacifier after nursing can't hurt and will cause baby to swallow whatever is left in his/her mouth.

    I night nursed until my ds was over 2.5 but I would unlatch and roll him over instead of letting him fall to sleep on the breast.

    My ds is now 4 and has already had cavities filled. Even with the precautions I took (giving him a pacifier after nursing until he was about 8 months old, and then not allowing him to fall asleep with milk in his mouth) he ended up with discolouration and cavities.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the research doesn't say they are directly linked, but I can see how sitting milk could be a factor....
    Would it make any difference that I have stopped nursing her lying down since she was about 2 months? I've always sat up for nursing her at night. Most of the time I unlatch her when she's fallen asleep. Recently she's been unlatching herself when the letdown's gone. But I have no way to know if she swallows all the milk before drifting back to sleep.

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*aprilsmagic View Post
    My second child has exactly what you describe on the front teeth, and two dentists have NEVER asked me about breastfeeding or bottle use when discussing them. They both said it is an enamel defect. Hypoplastic enamel runs in my family.

    We are not even doing anything about it, and his front teeth have been like this since they erupted. I can't wait until they fall out.
    What worries me is that she has a very thin light brown line near the gum line. Even though I've looked at lots of pictures of tooth decay and it doesn't seem like it it doesn't look exactly like hypoplasia either . The teeth look like some of the hypoplasia/hypo-/de-calcification pictures though, minus the line. I'm CONFUSED. I would just not mention breastfeeding at the dentist; however I'm not 100% confident that BF/night-nursing does NOT cause/contribute to it, either that's why I wish some authority would tell me that.
    But when I think about it, I also realize that when a dentist tells me BF/night/nursing does or does not cause tooth problems, it's probably just their own opinion isn't it, kwim?


    First time, SAH mom to my precious daughter born October 2009
    Nursing 27 months and counting... I still love nursing so much and am SAD thinking the end can come anytime now...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    558

    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*mommal View Post
    This article from kellymom addresses cavities and breastfeeding: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/tooth-decay/. Short synopsis: if your kid has dental decay, it's probably not breastfeeding that's at fault.

    I think you're on the right track eliminating juice and sugary snacks. When you have a kid with a possible enamel weakness, it may also make sense to make sure your LO has some time periods during the day when she's not snacking, giving her mouth a chance to cleanse itself. I know that's hard when you have a toddler, since they are often all-day grasses!
    My toddler has never all-day grazers (is that what you meant? ) at all. She has 3 main meals and 1-2 snacks, plus frequent breastfeeding.

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*sch.mommy View Post
    There are a number of different thoughts on the subject. Some kids have weak teeth whereas others have very strong teeth/enamel. It may have nothing to do with night nursing. There is no actual evidence directly linking the two, however the logic does make sense (to me, anyway). *I* believe that when anything sits in your baby's mouth for a long time it's bound to affect the teeth. My dentist doesn't believe that night nursing leads to cavities, however, he has the same sort of thinking that I do and agreed that popping in a pacifier after nursing can't hurt and will cause baby to swallow whatever is left in his/her mouth.

    I night nursed until my ds was over 2.5 but I would unlatch and roll him over instead of letting him fall to sleep on the breast.

    My ds is now 4 and has already had cavities filled. Even with the precautions I took (giving him a pacifier after nursing until he was about 8 months old, and then not allowing him to fall asleep with milk in his mouth) he ended up with discolouration and cavities.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the research doesn't say they are directly linked, but I can see how sitting milk could be a factor....
    Would it make any difference that I have stopped nursing her lying down since she was about 2 months? I've always sat up for nursing her at night. Most of the time I unlatch her when she's fallen asleep. Recently she's been unlatching herself when the letdown's gone. But I have no way to know if she swallows all the milk before drifting back to sleep.

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*aprilsmagic View Post
    My second child has exactly what you describe on the front teeth, and two dentists have NEVER asked me about breastfeeding or bottle use when discussing them. They both said it is an enamel defect. Hypoplastic enamel runs in my family.

    We are not even doing anything about it, and his front teeth have been like this since they erupted. I can't wait until they fall out.
    What worries me is that she has a very thin light brown line near the gum line. Even though I've looked at lots of pictures of tooth decay and it doesn't seem like it it doesn't look exactly like hypoplasia either . The teeth look like some of the hypoplasia/hypo-/de-calcification pictures though, minus the line. I'm CONFUSED. I would just not mention breastfeeding at the dentist; however I'm not 100% confident that BF/night-nursing does NOT cause/contribute to it, either that's why I wish some authority would tell me that.
    But when I think about it, I also realize that when a dentist tells me BF/night/nursing does or does not cause tooth problems, it's probably just their own opinion isn't it, kwim?


    First time, SAH mom to my precious daughter born October 2009
    Nursing 27 months and counting... I still love nursing so much and am SAD thinking the end can come anytime now...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    21,236

    Default Re: nursing to sleep/night nursing and dental health

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*irismom View Post
    My toddler has never all-day grazers (is that what you meant? ) at all. She has 3 main meals and 1-2 snacks, plus frequent breastfeeding.
    Yes, all-day grazing is what I was referring to. I recently read an article in the NY Times about dental decay in young children and it pointed an accusative finger at that sort of eating pattern. IDK how reliable the assertions were but it did make sense to me that if you want to give your kid a better chance of escaping the dentist's chair, you want to make sure there are at least some periods during the day when the kid isn't sticking a cracker into his mouth every 5 minutes. Sounds like you're more successful at that than I am!
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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