breastfeeding infantBreastfeeding is essential – and not just for infant nutrition and overall health. It’s essential for good orofacial development, too, which you can read more about here.

Yet there are some who think that breastfeeding also raises a child’s risk of early tooth decay. This isn’t without reason. Many dentists can give you case histories that seem to prove it, and some studies have even seemed to confirm the idea – even as other research challenges the notion.

In light of the rivaling science, a group of researchers recently set out to explore the possible connection by following the oral health and dietary practices of Australian toddlers. Breastfeeding habits were noted at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months. How much sugar they ate was tracked at ages 1 and 2. Dental exams were done at age 2 to 3 to see if early childhood caries (ECC) – early tooth decay – had developed.

The researchers found “no independent association” between ECC and breastfeeding beyond 12 months, although they did note a tendency toward such a relationship among children who were breastfeed to sleep – something that’s consistent with Dr. V’s observations over the years.

Two things were associated with a higher risk of ECC, however, and neither of them was a surprise: higher sugar intake and socioeconomic disadvantage.

“Breastfeeding practices were not associated with ECC,” they concluded.

Given the wide-ranging benefits of breastfeeding, and the low prevalence of sustained breastfeeding in this study and Australia in general, recommendations to limit breastfeeding are unwarranted, and breastfeeding should be promoted in line with global and national recommendations. To reduce the prevalence of early childhood caries, improved efforts are needed to limit foods high in free sugars.

The study was just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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