Mothers warned not to believe breastfeeding lie

NEW mums are being bombarded with ill-advised warnings that babies who fall asleep on the breast while feeding end up with tooth decay.

An Australian breastfeeding expert says some health practitioners are scaring new mums with dated information that breast milk can cause decay, and some are warning to brush the tiny tots' gums.

Research from the 1970s suggested breast milk pools in the child's mouth and rots the teeth, similar to a child being left to suck on a bottle. But evidence-based research has since debunked that theory.

"Sadly, I hear all the time about anxious mums thinking they should give up breastfeeding as they don't want to harm the child. It is very concerning that some medics cite old studies and don't keep up with research," national breastfeeding expert Pinky McKay told The Courier-Mail.

Breastfeeding doesn not cause tooth decay, despite the old wive’s tales. Picture:  Thinkstock
Breastfeeding doesn not cause tooth decay, despite the old wive’s tales. Picture: Thinkstock

"Sucking on a bottle and sucking on the breast are completely different. In bottle feeding, the milk is released into the front of the mouth and sits around the teeth, but in breastfeeding, the nipple is drawn far back into the mouth and the milk is released into the throat," she said.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association confirms that this is a common misconception.

"Research strongly opposes the notion that breastfeeding has anything to do with tooth decay. This evidence includes population studies that have shown no relationship between breastfeeding and tooth decay in large groups of young children."

The association wants mothers to know that research suggests breastfeeding may actually protect against tooth decay, while formula may play a role in its development. Antibodies in breast milk help to impede bacterial growth.

Brianna Fear-Keenan with 10-week-old twins Indiana and Emerson. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Brianna Fear-Keenan with 10-week-old twins Indiana and Emerson. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Mother-of-four Brianna Fear-Keen is breastfeeding her 10-week-old twins. The dietitian says she reads all the recent research and is a strong advocate for the benefits of breastfeeding.

"There is so much misinformation thrown around when it comes to new mums. They are struggling enough at times and don't need to feel unnecessarily worried that they are doing harm," the Gold Coast mother said.


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