New Study Highlights the Downside of Extended Breastfeeding

breastfeeding babyAs long as you can make it work and your baby is eating enough, breastfeeding is usually considered all good. There are no drawbacks to it, health-wise, for your baby ... well, except for possibly, maybe, their tiny little teeth. Breastfeeding at night has been linked with tooth decay, though the research has been inconclusive. But a new study shows there might be a connection after all: Breastfeeding more than two years is linked to tooth decay. Here's what scientists found and what it means to nursing moms.


A study of low-income families in Brazil followed 458 babies from 6 months to 38 months old. Of the breastfed babies, 40 percent between the ages of 6 and 24 months had some tooth decay. Of the babies who were still breastfeeding at 38 months, even more had tooth decay: 48 percent. Keep in mind, by that age, the babies were not still feeding exclusively on milk; they were also eating solid foods and juices.

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Lead researcher Benjamin Chaffee is quick to point out, "Our study does not suggest that breastfeeding causes caries." He speculates that refined sugars in a baby's diet could be reacting to breast milk, though.

Meanwhile, a pediatrician not involved in the study thinks this may also be about practicing good oral hygiene for your baby. Breast and bottle feeding give babies less time for their teeth to get cleaned naturally with their saliva. It's not the breast milk! It's what's not happening while your baby is breastfeeding.

If you're doing extended breastfeeding, it's especially important that you get on the good baby oral hygiene routine. You know the drill: Take your baby for their first dentist checkup at their first birthday. Clean your baby's teeth with a damp washcloth after they eat food.

What is your oral hygiene practice for your baby?


Image via Christine Rogers/Flickr

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