Breast Milk Causes More Cavities than Cow Milk

In a comparison of fluids fed to infants and toddlers, researchers have found that cola, sucrose and honey were the worst for young teeth, and that human milk caused significantly more cavities than cow milk.

The University of Rochester Medical Center research is published in the October edition of Pediatrics.  It warns parents to stop babies from drinking sugary liquids from bottles and cautions them against sweetening water with honey, a practice which has been promoted as good for dental health.  It also discourages parents from letting babies fall asleep on the nipple.

The study’s authors do not advocate switching from breastfeeding to cow milk, but they do advise nursing mothers to provide oral hygiene after feedings, especially when the infant’s first teeth have begun to emerge.

“In families where cavities are prevalent, there’s also an urgent need to avoid feeding all night once the teeth have erupted,” said Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., professor of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Lawrence co-authored the cavities study with William H. Bowen, D.D.S., Ph.D., the University of Rochester Welcher Professor of Dentistry, and one of the world’s leading authorities on tooth decay.  

The study was conducted on rats using an approach that mimics the situation among infants and toddlers who are allowed to indulge in protracted feeding.  The authors report that artificial and human nipples may restrict the flow of saliva, which promotes cavities.

The researchers fed the rats a variety of beverages and found that cola produced the most cavities, and cow milk the least.  Human milk was at the lower end, next to cow milk, and the researchers stated that human milk is no worse for teeth than many infant formulas.

Scientists theorized that the cavity-causing difference between human milk and cow milk might be the mineral content in human milk.

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