By: Dr. Amanda Tavoularis (dentably.com)

3 Common Myths About Breastfeeding and Dental Health

Dr. Amanda Tavoularis (dentably.com)

Congratulations, new mommy! You are embarking on one of the most amazing journeys in life. It can also be one of the scariest times, and you want to be well informed so you make all the right decisions. I get it because I’m a mom, too. That’s why I take pregnancy dental care seriously.

 

It can be difficult to sort through all the information available on the internet, and with so many different voices, searching out facts from myths is often downright impossible. One great way to do that is by joining some programs for new mothers who breastfeed, and finding mentors who have been through it all.

 

This article is meant to address the top 3 most common myths associated with breastfeeding and your oral health. Regardless of how these myths got their start, they are problematic because of their inaccuracy. The good news is that it means you don’t have to worry about these issues anymore!

 

Breastfeeding Causes Tooth Decay

 

This myth always makes me laugh a little bit because it’s actually the opposite of the truth. Breastfeeding does not cause tooth decay in either moms or their babies. Let’s take a look at the actual reasons behind this myth.

 

Babies and Tooth Decay

 

Babies can get cavities, so oral hygiene is really important, but according to the NIH, who has conducted several studies on the issue, they won’t get it from breastfeeding.  Actually, bottles are more of a risk factor to cavities than breastfeeding. Letting a baby sleep with a bottle of milk can cause baby bottle mouth.

 

Before bottles existed, all mothers used breastfeeding for their children. Dental decay in baby teeth was extremely rare despite more primitive methods of oral hygiene. Drs. Brian Palmer and Harold Torney conducted extensive studies of the effects of prolonged breastfeeding on tooth decay in children and found no correlation.

 

A major factor in bottles causing tooth decay is because when liquid flows out faster than a child wants to drink it, the milk, which contains sugars, will pool inside the baby’s mouth and rest among their teeth. Breast milk doesn’t do this because the milk only flows out of a mother’s breast when the baby is actively sucking it. Another factor is that milk from a breast comes into the mouth behind the baby’s teeth, and actively sucking involves swallowing, so the milk never has a chance to touch the teeth.

 

What really causes the decay? Research shows that decay is a result of other foods in a baby’s diet. When sugar is added to milk and food, it causes tremendous amounts of decay in young children and babies. This means that oral hygiene is incredibly important – especially for children who are at risk of developing cavities due to weaknesses in their enamel.

 

Mommies and Tooth Decay

 

Another side of this myth says that breastfeeding your baby will lead to your own teeth decaying. This myth suggests that the baby is sucking away your calcium along with breast milk. This is a physical impossibility, so you don’t need to be concerned about that.

 

The real reason that new moms are at an increased risk for cavities, has more to do with their routine than anything else. You are rearranging your entire life around this new baby, who needs all your care and attention. Often, new moms will forget that they still need some self-care.

 

When you change your oral hygiene routine and forget to regularly brush and floss, you’re at an increased risk. Likewise, when the baby wakes you up in the middle of the night you’re likely to grab a little midnight snack and be too tired to brush and floss after you’ve changed diapers and nursed.

 

Some moms have trouble producing enough milk for their babies. Special diets can encourage milk production, but the problem with this is that these lactation cookies contain a lot of sugar as well as the necessary ingredients to boost milk production. Sugar increases the risk of cavities.

 

Protect yourself from this problem by joining some support groups and connecting with moms who can offer you some advice and time off when needed!

 

Prolonged Breastfeeding Rearranges Teeth

 

Some critics of breastfeeding will tell moms that it’s okay for babies, but once teeth start coming in it’s time to switch away from that method. They will scare moms by telling them that breastfeeding will rearrange the teeth into less than ideal arrangements.

 

The truth is that this claim is also a physical impossibility. Breast tissue is soft, and it actually forms to the shape of your child’s mouth, not the other way around. In fact, the rigid structure of pacifiers and bottles are more likely to push against your baby’s teeth and rearrange them over time.  Genetics has more to do with mouth structure than breastfeeding.

 

Pregnant Moms Shouldn’t See a Dentist

 

Another myth is that pregnant moms should wait to see a dentist until after they have finished having a baby and breastfeeding. This is an extremely dangerous myth because in some emergencies, like with abscesses, waiting to see the dentist can actually cause your bloodstream to get infected and prove detrimental to both you and your child.

 

Dentists are trained in a variety of procedures. We can recognize the special needs of our pregnant patients and recommend medications and treatments that will not adversely affect their children.

If you told me 4 years ago that I would have breastfed a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a now 10 month old, I would have told you that you were out of your mind and probably laughed at you. Most people think that I am crazy and most people think that I have the strength of a lion. I honestly don’t know how I did it and how I am still doing it, but I always get through it. 

When I started breastfeeding, I didn’t know anyone close to me or in my family who did. I basically had to educate myself. I took breastfeeding classes, did a lot of online research and I joined breastfeeding groups on Facebook to learn more about it so that I can be successful in my journey. Four years later, I am still learning new information.
I didn’t know a lot when I was breastfeeding my 4 year old and 2 year old daughters, but somehow I got through it. I breastfed and supplemented with formula with my first and I exclusively breastfed my second. I am also breastfeeding my 10 month old son, exclusively. 

 

I am going to talk about my breastfeeding journey with my son since it has been the hardest. When I had my son, he was born with low blood sugar at 5lbs 15oz, and we had to spend extra days in the hospital. So to see my son striving and growing off my breast milk alone brings me so much joy. 

 When leaving the hospital and going home, I didn’t know what was to come with having 2 toddlers and a newborn. I was at home most of the time by myself with the kids because my husband was at work about half the day. I ended up being diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety and I was put on depression meds. I wanted to give up so bad on breastfeeding Jaden because I was constantly chasing 2 toddlers around while trying to cook and constantly cleaning because well, I have 2 toddlers. I was literally a walking zombie. My OBGYN didn’t know how I made it through a month with barely ANY sleep. Life at the moment wasn’t worth it. I was at my worse but I made it through and I didn’t give up on breastfeeding. 

 

Another hard time was when my baby had to spend several days in the PICU because he had RSV. I brought in the New Year in PICU  with my son. When we got there he couldn’t eat because of how weak his body was and he was on oxygen and so much more. I had to pump every 2 hours for several days which was so hard because I strongly dislike pumping. In the middle of the next day, he was able to eat through a feeding tube so I was constantly pumping and crying. I was so frustrated just seeing my son struggle. I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore. I almost told them to just give him formula because I was tired, my body was tired. I was at my worse but I made it through and I didn’t give up on pumping.

I absolutely love breastfeeding because of the bond I created with my son and the benefits that are available for both of us. However, breastfeeding has taken a toll on me, on my body and my self confidence. Breastfeeding has made me lose a lot of weight and it has increased my appetite times

1000 seriously lol. I am ALWAYS hungry and thirsty but I have a fast metabolism so I still don’t gain much weight. People don’t know that burning a large number of calories is a “benefit” of breastfeeding. For some women it’s a benefit but not for me.  I’ve always been small but people body shame me. They tell me I need to eat and how I’ve gotten smaller and how I need to gain weight and they don’t even know the half. I don’t like being so small but it’s just something I have to deal with because I’m not giving up on breastfeeding.

 

I’ve dedicated my body to my children for 4 years and I am ready to claim my body back as mine. I am ready to pick out clothes without having to determine will Jaden have easy access to nurse, I am ready to be done with pumping and washing pumping parts everyday and I am ready to no longer feel like a 24/7 milk only restaurant. 

But with each new beautiful journey breastfeeding has given me, I will miss being the sole lifeline for my son, soothing him by nursing, him being curled up in my lap while he nurses ( even him doing gymnastics lol) and producing food from my body just for him.   
I know each day that passes, it’s one day closer to the end of our journey and also one day less that I will get to share this type of bond with my Jaden. All 3 of my breastfeeding journeys are equally beautiful and difficult in their own way but they are ones I will never forget. It’s all worth it in the end! I’m blessed! 
  
Thank you to my husband for always being by my side through my journey and always encouraging me.
Thank you A’Ari, Alaya and Jaden for giving me this experience.