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When babies still consume milk as primary diet – breastmilk or formula milk – parents often use it as comfort food too. Is your baby cranky, waking up at night, or making suckling motions? He is probably hungry and you either reach for the bottle or offer your breast to him. While making sure your baby is well fed is essential, do you remember to clean their mouth after they drink milk? Do you do something about the residual milk that remains in their mouth, all night long? Many parents don’t. And something as simple and easy to overlook as this results in a scary condition called Nursing Bottle Syndrome (NBS).
As per recent studies, many babies as young as two years old now need fillings, crowns and extractions, thanks to NBS. This is caused when your child’s baby teeth remain in contact with liquids containing sugar for a long period of time, such as overnight. This includes liquids such as breastmilk, formula or fruit juice. The bacteria present in your baby’s mouth start breaking the sugar down into acid leading to extreme tooth decay. With time, your baby’s teeth can turn absolutely black as shown below:
Here’s what doctors have asked all parents to do!
Considering the rising number of NBS cases, doctors have compiled a list of must-dos that you must act upon. Follow these instructions to undo this life-changing parenting mistake!
- Don’t let your child walk around or fall asleep with a bottle of milk for more than 20 minutes. Take it out, clean his mouth and use other means of comfort such as swaddling, singing or cuddling to ensure your baby sleeps.
- Follow basic but essential dental care for your baby as soon as his teeth start appearing. You can gently brush them or clean them using a wet cloth. Regularly visit the dentist to root out any early problems.
- Gradually, you must aim to reduce the frequency of night-feeding. Start slowly and then reduce the amount of time per feeding session incrementally.
- If your baby is over one year of age, give him a bottle of water after feeding. This rinses the residual milk and keeps his mouth clean.
- Start weaning your baby from the bottle as early as 12-14 months. Get them on a sippy cup for instance and insist on rinsing the mouth after every meal/drink.
- Restrict the amount of juices and sodas your baby consumes as these are very high in sugar and can erode the teeth. Ideally, water is what they should be consuming more of between meals.
As parents, we wish the very best for our child. But sometimes, a mistake we don’t even realise we are making can cause havoc with our baby’s life. Prevent him from going through the pain and suffering of extensive dental treatment by being extra careful with his pearly whites. Stay safe!