I started to co-sleep with my son when my maternity leave ended. He was no way near sleeping through the night, and this was the only way I would get rest and feel good the next day. Now he is a year old, and he wakes up once or twice at night. Laterly, I am becoming concerned that I am putting my son at risk for dental caries. My brother practices pediatric dentistry, and my best friend is a dentist, and they make it seem like child abuse to night nurse my son.
I had attempted to wean him, and weaning night nursing was the worst (see breast lump thread). What I would like more than anything would be to continue to nurse him day and night, and let him wean me. I read and hear conflicting things regarding nightfeeding and dental caries. Despite the lack of scientific data that I could find (please point me in the right direction if I am wrong about this), I can't help pay attention to parents who say their night nurser ended up with bottle mouth even though their toddlers were exclusively breastfed and didn't get junk like candy and juice. Thoughts?
I wonder if you aren't at a bit of a disadvantage with all these dentists in the your immediate circle! (I'd be really interested in knowing (if they have kids) whether or not their kids were breastfed at all, BTW.) There is a culture of "expertise-seeking" in the USA which really inhibits our own wisdom and causes us to doubt our own judgement.
I would ignore their well-intentioned advice and keep nursing as long as your son is interested in doing so. We let our four kids decide when they were done nursing. It felt right to us and that time with them was very important to me and to them, especially with our first child, who was born during my medical training.
My daughter is about to turn two. I have continued to co-sleep and night nurse for just the reason you mention. I am pretty careful about making sure she brushes her teeth upon waking and before going to sleep. She almost never drinks juice or has real sweet - although she does sometimes have raisins (usually in the AM). When she does have one of these things, I am particularly careful to try to have her brush her teeth well. Then, we go ahead and nurse as much as she wants all night long. So far so good. And the relief of having real contact / bonding time even when I'm on weeks with crazy hours has been immense.
I find the studies that suggest that (a) it's been historically normal to night nurse until at least 2-3, and (b) dental cares were extremely rare before modern diets pretty convincing. And I'm willing to take a risk that I'm wrong in order to continue something that's been so incredibly important to us.
I tend to be a pretty worried parent about a lot of things (I did night float, and q4 call, while pregnant - I'm sure that messed up my child's development somehow! Oh no!)... but this one I have no second thoughts about. Definitely the right decision for us!
Now that you point it out, I have never seen "baby bottle" teeth in a breastfed baby. Lots of kids with bottles at night have rotten teeth, but I have never seen it in a baby who is breastfed at night, even until 2 or 3!
I wonder if the natural immune properties of the breastmilk help protect the teeth.
My brother's wife weaned their kids around 8 months, and my bestfriend weaned her baby at 1 year. My bestfriend and I have different parenting styles. She ferberized her son, and she weaned her baby by going away for a weekend and leaving her baby with her mother in law. I am more an attachment style parent.
I think I will continue to night nurse and do baby directed weaning because it really does feel right. Instead of night weaning, I decided to be more vigilent about dental prevention. I am starting to brush twice a day, and floss once a day. He only eats fresh organic wholesome food. No juice or sugary things. I will also make sure he gets his flouride, too. It's good to hear other physicians made the same choice as me. Thanks!
Ok one more thing. How do you feel about toddler toothpaste made of xylitol? I feel really uncomfortable about giving him an artificial sweetner everyday, but dental caries, general anesthesia, and surgery are much worse?
Hi there! I am a dentist and I also have a one year old daughter. We are still nursing in the AM and at night. I also feel the same guilt that you are feeling! Last night she woke up 3 times and I nursed her 3 times and each time I think about "what am I doing?" I have seen first hand baby bottle caries from breast feeding. It's just as bad as putting a baby down with a bottle. The problem is the fact that when a baby is asleep at the breast, the milk pools in their mouth. Their teeth are then sitting in a pool of milk and decay happens because of exposure. Bacteria don't care if it's breastmilk, apple juice, or whole milk - they just eat it up. I think part of the reason hundreds of years ago early childhood caries weren't a problem is a more all natural diet and not as much carbohydrates and processed foods. I also wonder if there were different intraoral bacteria back then as well. I don't have any real advice for you, because I am going through the same thing. As a dentist, I have to say "Stop" but as a mom I feel for what your going through. I think for us we are going to work on weaning over the next month or so. DD doesn't 'need' me to breastfeed her at night. If my husband goes in and rubs her back and shushes he, she will usually go to sleep on her own. I almost think weaning will be harder on me emotionally than on my daughter. It's hard when your working all day and when I come home from work I just want to cuddle my daughter. But as a toddler, DD just wants to GO GO GO and not cuddle. Breastfeeding was a way for me to still get my cuddles in.