Although breastfeeding might be the best option when it comes to feeding new-borns, it’s not without its downsides and researchers in the US are now suggesting that it could encourage tooth decay if it is carried out for extended periods of time. A study has shown that children who are breastfed after the age of two are more likely to have tooth decay later on.
Researcher Benjamin Chaffee, of Berkeley at the University of California, carried out a study detailing the links between long-term breastfeeding and tooth decay in 458 babies from low-income families in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Most of the babies in the study were old enough to be eating solid food as well as being breastfed; their teeth were checked at age six months, one year, and 38 months. The research showed that 40% of the children who were breastfed between the ages of six and 24 months had developed some level of decay by the end of the study; for babies that are fed with breast milk for longer than two years on a regular basis this number rose to 48%.
The sucking action of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding milk seals off the teeth from saliva, which is needed to break down the bacteria that cause cavities. Dr Chaffee said that the study does not suggest that breastfeeding itself causes cavities, but that this repeated action, in conjunction with excess amounts of refined sugar, could be contributing factors in tooth decay among babies who are breastfed for longer and more often.