Providing the nutrition your baby needs to grow.
Proper nutrition is important for everyone, but it’s absolutely essential for your little one. It gives their body the resources it needs to grow, develop, and stay healthy. Your child’s diet even impacts their oral health—a balanced diet helps keep your child’s teeth strong and reduces the likelihood that they’ll suffer from cavities. Diet is so vital for your child’s oral health because baby teeth have a thinner layer of protective enamel than permanent teeth. Decay develops and spreads in baby teeth faster than it does in adult teeth, so it’s important to focus on preventive dental care to keep your little one healthy. Understanding how different habits to do with your child’s nutrition impact their oral health can be difficult, however, so we’ve put together a guide with the answers to questions parents often ask us.
Is it okay to let my baby go to sleep with a bottle?
Formula, milk, and juice contain sugars that will coat your little one’s teeth every time they take a drink from the bottle. These sugars will sit on their teeth overnight, increasing the risk of decay. This type of decay, which is referred to as “baby bottle decay,” can affect any of your little one’s teeth, but most often occurs on their front teeth. If you’re worried that your little one will get thirsty in the middle of the night, send them to bed with a bottle full of water instead.
How does breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding affect my baby’s teeth?
Breastfeeding has a range of benefits for your baby, including several for their oral health. When a baby is breastfed exclusively, it reduces the risk of baby bottle decay and may even help your child develop a better bite in the future. The ADA reports that several recent studies have shown that children who were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives were less likely to suffer from jaw misalignment. A number of other factors like genetics and pacifier use also impact the development of your child’s bite, however, so breastfeeding them exclusively doesn’t guarantee that they won’t need braces in the future.
What should I feed my baby when they first start eating solid foods to maximize their oral health?
When your baby is ready to start trying solid food, there’s a range of tooth-healthy options you can introduce to your child. Start off with soft foods that have been chopped into small pieces so that they’re easy to swallow, as this helps ensure that your child won’t choke.
Try feeding them soft fruits and cooked vegetables, including cooked and cut-up sweet potatoes or squash and small pieces of banana, all of which contain nutrients that help keep your little one’s teeth and gums healthy. You can also introduce chopped chicken, scrambled eggs, and pasta.
Building a balanced diet is just as important for your little one’s teeth as it is for the rest of their body. All of these foods contain essential vitamins and minerals that will help your child develop strong, healthy teeth and bones. Still, it’s a good idea to introduce single-ingredient foods several days apart so you can look out for signs of food allergies.
Does the timing of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding impact oral health?
In most cases, when you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby doesn’t impact their oral health. The only exception is if you’re giving your baby a feeding right before bed. This allows the sugars from the milk or formula to sit on your baby’s teeth overnight, increasing the likelihood that they’ll develop tooth decay. Always make sure that you brush your baby’s teeth after their last feeding of the night, right before you put them down to sleep. Just like adults, your baby’s teeth need to be brushed twice a day to help fight cavities.
Are sweets okay to feed to my infant?
Giving children sweets this early can shape their tastes and lead to unhealthy habits in the future—and it can make it harder to convince them to eat healthy foods later. Since babies have such a small stomach at this age and are limited by how many solid foods they can eat, it’s important to make sure what they’re eating is nutritious.
How does my nutrition affect my baby’s oral health?
Your breast milk provides your baby with the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients they need. As a result, making sure that you’re getting enough calories—about 330 to 400 more calories than usual each day—from a healthy, balanced diet is vital to ensure that both you and your baby get the nutrients you each need. You should eat foods that are rich in protein, such as lean meats, eggs, beans, and dairy as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Sticking to a healthy diet like this ensures that your baby gets all the nutrients they need to build and maintain strong, healthy teeth and gums.
As your child grows and begins to explore new foods, it’s important to keep their nutrition in mind. Getting the right nutrition now will help your child grow at a healthy rate while building healthy habits that will benefit them for years to come. We know learning the best ways to feed your little one can seem a little daunting, but our team is here to support you! If you have any questions, feel free to call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Shea at any time.