Infant Diet Tips for Healthy Teeth
Having a newborn at home is one of the most exciting times in life! And, it's certainly one of the most stressful. There's about a million things to think about with a newborn, and often teeth are pretty low on the list of concerns (since they don't have any yet!). BUT, the dietary preferences that we develop at a very young age have been shown to stick with us throughout our lives. While this may seem overwhelming – what you feed your infant can affect her whole life – it's also a great opportunity to help shape a healthy lifestyle from the very beginning.
The first source of nutrition for your newborn will almost certainly be either mom's milk or infant formula. While there is a lot of pressure on mom's to nurse their newborn, it certainly is not for everyone (for a wide variety of reasons). Just know that similar principles apply whether your infant is getting nutrition from mom or from infant formula.
For nursing mothers, nursing newborns to sleep is very common and natural. The same goes for formula-fed infants. But the continuation of feeding throughout the night beyond 12 months of age can be harmful for your baby's teeth. While it may be harmful to continue this practice beyond the first year of life, it is never a good idea to put your child to sleep with a bottle of milk or formula. This allows the milk to coat your child's teeth all night long, giving those harmful bacteria a source of food for hours at a time.
Fruit juice, even 100% natural, all-organic, or homemade fruit juice, does not have nearly the same health benefits as whole fruit, and can be harmful for your child's teeth. For this reason, it is recommended that you avoid giving your infant fruit juice. Remember – the taste preferences that we develop early in life will stay with us for a very long time. Developing a “sweet tooth” at a young age will make milk and water (the tooth-healthy drinks) much less appealing to our kids. Make life easy for yourself – avoid exposing your kids to sweet, sugared beverages as long as possible!
Here's a summary of helpful tips for your baby:
- Encourage your baby to eat (either human milk or formula) before bed so that she is less likely to wake at night to eat
- Discontinue nighttime feeding by your child's first birthday
- Avoid sugared beverages, even those with natural sugars like 100% fruit juice, as long as possible
- Don't put your child to bed with a bottle or cup of milk, formula, or juice