- By Jessica A. Rickert
August is National Breastfeeding Month, so designated by the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Breastfeeding is also known as nursing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year of a baby’s life.
There are many oral and dental benefits for the baby. Breastfeeding reduces the risk for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay also known as Nursing Bottle Mouth Syndrome. This type of tooth decay often occurs when a baby is put to bed with a bottle containing formula, milk or fruit juice. Babies as young as 10 months old have developed Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
There are natural sugars in breastmilk, so it is important to begin to clean baby’s gums and eventual teeth in the first weeks of life.
The American Dental Association found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 12 months or more were less likely to have teeth alignment issues such as open bites, crossbites, and overbites, than those exclusively bottle fed.Still, this doesn’t mean a breastfed baby won’t need braces someday. Other factors, including genetics, pacifier use, and thumb sucking, affect alignment. But why not control those factors that you can control?
Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for both moms and babies, with many benefits, including a fast and strong bond between baby and Mom.
Breast milk and Baby:
- Is easier for babies to digest than formula
- Is the best source of nutrition for baby
- Changes to meet the nutritional needs of a growing baby
- Helps protect baby from infection and illness like ear infections by providing immunities from Mom to the baby
- May lower child’s risk of overweight, obesity, and asthma
- Can also help lower baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Breastfed infants tend to have fewer speech problems than bottle-fed infants
Breastfeeding and Mom:
- Moms who breastfeed have lower rates of ovarian and breast cancer
- Moms who breastfeed have lower rates of high blood pressure
- Moms who breastfeed have lower rates of Type 2 diabetes
- Breastfeeding helps the Mother’s body return to normal and decreases blood loss after baby is born
The medical doctor will likely recommend that at about 6 months, baby can begin to have other foods. Experts recommend continuing to breastfeed baby for at least the first 12 months — and for as long as baby and Mom are comfortable.
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It is common to need a little help, especially in the beginning. The good news is that it gets easier with time.
To get ready to breastfeed, while Mom is pregnant, she can:
- Talk to the doctor or midwife about breastfeeding
- Do her own research
- Ask family members for support
- Plan for baby’s possible feeding schedule. Realize that in the first couple of months, babies need to nurse every few hours, even at night
- Learn about breast pumping, especially if Mom wants other family member to be able to feed baby
- Find out how to eat healthy while breastfeeding
Once baby is born:
- Let the doctor, nurse or midwife know that immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby is important
- Nurse whenever baby is hungry
- Ask for help if breastfeeding is difficult
Breast milk is the perfect food for baby. Breastfeeding gives Mom and baby a closeness that is delightful. The emotional satisfaction is so special and is so unique for each Mom and her baby, truly a time to be cherished.
Dr. Jessica A. Rickert is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, in 1975, she became for the first female Native American dentist.
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