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Should we give a nursing bottle of milk just before bedtime?

Published on October 21, 2018 at 14:41 / Updated on January 27, 2023 at 21:01

It is late, you are exhausted and baby is crying because he doesn’t want to sleep. What could you do to help him calm down and sleep? You already tried singing a lullaby and reading a story. A nursing bottle will comfort him. But beware! This is a solution that can have consequences.

According to a researcher from the Université de Montréal, this daily gesture increases the risk of early childhood cavities. She came to this conclusion after studying how 776 women in the Montérégie region succeed in comforting their babies at bedtime. These babies, aged between 15 and 18 months, fall asleep while sucking on their nursing bottle.

Lactose is the principal culprit in tooth decay

Lactose, a natural sugar contained in milk, is the principal culprit in tooth decay. During the night, a decrease in salivation reduces the cleansing effect of the saliva in the mouth. Tongue and cheek movements are also greatly reduced throughout this period. Therefore, bacteria are not being removed from the mouth, allowing sugar to remain in contact with the teeth for a long period of time. What paradise this becomes for cavity-causing bacteria! They have all the time needed to do the damage, especially if the child’s teeth were not brushed before bedtime.

Early childhood cavities mostly affect babies and toddlers. It is considered an infectious disease because the principal bacterium responsible, Streptococus mutans, is not present in the baby’s mouth at birth. It is adults and other children that transmit it to him as he grows. Like any type of cavity, it may be painful and even necessitate the extraction of one or more teeth if not attended to immediately. This infection is prominent in children of pre-school age. A study conducted in the province of Quebec in 1998-1999 reveals that when entering kindergarten, 42% of children have already had cavities.

A bottle of milk during the day or occasionally before bedtime appears less harmful. It is when the bottle is given systematically at bedtime and baby falls asleep while sucking on it that it becomes problematic. This situation seems to occur more frequently in underprivileged families. According to the Montreal researcher, 59% of mothers from low-income families use the nursing bottle as a calming solution, compared to 38% of mothers from higher-income households.

Adopt healthy dental hygiene habits

Parents must adopt a healthy dental hygiene routine as early as possible, even before the first tooth appears. For example, you can clean your baby’s gums at bath time. When the first teeth appear, you must brush them at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to protect them against cavities. Nutrition also plays an important role. Healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than sweets, are highly recommended.

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