Stop Telling Moms to Night Wean to Prevent Tooth Cavities

Stop Telling Moms to Night Wean to Prevent Tooth Cavities

There are many studies showing that there is no association between tooth decay and breastfeeding. What really stands out to me though, is the research showing that breastfeeding can actually PROTECT against tooth decay.

Researchers have found that human milk contains antibodies that help to reduce the growth of Streptococcus mutans - the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Even more amazingly, lactoferrin, a protein abundant in breast milk, actually KILLS Streptococcus mutans.

So why are SO MANY breastfeeding moms told to stop breastfeeding their babies at night in order to supposedly prevent cavities? Because breastfeeding isn’t the social norm. Since formula feeding via bottles is so commonly accepted as 'typical’ infant feeding, moms are being given ‘standardised’ advice that applies to formula/bottles, but DOES NOT APPLY to breastfeeding.

A good example of this is the phenomenon of “baby bottle mouth”, where formula can pool inside a baby’s mouth and cause cavities. But formula, of course, doesn’t contain the antibodies and proteins found in breast milk, which counteract the bacteria that cause decay. Even the mechanism of feeding via the breast is fundamentally different to how feeding works via a bottle, since a breastfeeding baby draws the nipple into his mouth - past the teeth - where milk is then released into the throat. There is literally no pooling of liquid in baby’s mouth.

For anybody who isn’t fully informed on the biology of breastfeeding, it becomes all too easy to incorrectly assume that night feeding is night feeding, no matter the liquid or the delivery method.

But before the introduction of baby bottles and formula, tooth decay in children was rare. Archaeological studies of the teeth of children in prehistoric times show that there was very little decay. These children would have been breastfed to term (anywhere from 2 to 7 years), and would also have slept beside their mothers and been breastfed during the night.

Too many moms are being pressured to stop breastfeeding, or to reduce night feeds, due to this mistaken idea that breastfeeding causes cavities. It simply doesn’t. Breastfeeding is protective…which makes sense, biologically and evolutionary speaking.

Breastfed babies aren’t immune to cavities, of course, but the root cause of them (genetics, diet, oral hygiene…) has nothing to do with breastfeeding. Every health organization across the globe agrees that breastfeeding is a practise that needs to be supported, since the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby are immeasurable, so lets time to wave goodbye to outdated misconceptions and welcome in the facts.

Moms, you’ve got this.


Denenish et al. (2020)
Ha et al. (2019)
Lavigne (2013)
Ribeiro & Ribeiro’s (2004)
Valaitis et al (2000)
Erickson et al (1999)
Palmer (1998)
Torney (1992)
Alaluusua (1990)
Rugg-Gunn et al (1985)
Brams et al (1983)
Gardner et al (1977)
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