The benefits of breastfeeding have been well established. There are benefits for both mother and baby.

Breastfeeding can help to reduce your baby’s risk of:

  • infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
  • diarrhoea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • obesity
  • cardiovascular disease in adulthood

Breastfeeding lowers mothers risks of:

  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • cardiovascular disease
  • obesity

“WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water.

Infants should be breastfed on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night. No bottles, teats or pacifiers should be used. From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.” WHO

There are many studies showing that, under 12 months, being breastfed reduces the risk of dental decay.

Formula milk and cows milk both contain more sugars than breast milk and are more likely to cause decay than breast milk.

After 12 months it is very difficult to get good evidence about decay risk and breast feeding because there are other decay risks being introduced- increased foods so therefore more likely to be having sugars, the main cause of decay. Also differences in toothbrushing habits and Fluoride toothpaste use.

I breastfed my son until he was 3 but still maintained healthy bedtime routine after he was 12 months, which is:

  1. Breastfeed
  2. Brush teeth
  3. Bedtime

Overnight nothing should be given in a bottle other than water. The naturally decreased salivary flow overnight means your baby has no natural defence to sugars whether that be from breastmilk, formula milk, cows milk or any other drink than water.

The general rules to reduce dental decay risk for children are:

  • Remove bacteria by regular brushing
  • Reduce sugar intake and limit frequency
  • Nothing but water after brushing your teeth at night due to reduced saliva production which protects teeth.
  • Use a Fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day.

For more information on looking after your children’s teeth see our previous blog here.

So although there is limited evidence we do know that there are sugars within breastmilk. This would lead me to believe that breastfeeding on demand and through the night should be weaned after 12 months due to other sugars being introduced. We would still encourage breastfeeding but at certain times of the day so as not to add too many sugar intervals and limit night time feeding where possible.

For more information please visit these sites that have been used to write this post: