The Importance of Weaning Bedtime Feeding…

I’ve been practicing pediatric dentistry exclusively for the past 7 years.  Over this period I have probably counseled thousands of parents on their children’s dietary habits.  For infants and young toddlers this always entails advices regarding weaning nursing/formula during the night, which is one of the biggest causes of early childhood caries and baby bottle decay.

Even though I provided all the appropriate guidelines and recommendations that are taken verbatim from the textbooks, in the back of my mind I often wondered if my tips actually work in real life.  In the past few months I have been glad to follow my own advice and applied everything to my daughter.

Many people have the misconception that it’s the bottle itself that causes cavities.  What’s more important actually is what we put inside the bottle rather than the bottle itself.  Formula and breast milk both contain plenty of carbohydrate which is the medium that bacteria needs to grow and multiply.  During the day, there’s plenty of saliva constantly washing away the carbohydrate build-up.  At night when we’re sleeping, there’s not nearly as much saliva flow.  As a result, any carbohydrate that’s left on the teeth stay there.  This is another reason why it’s so important to brush at night.

Nursing and bottle feeding at bedtime and in the middle of the night promote such bacteria growth and proliferation.  While brushing can adequately removed the build-up, it is very impractical to brush in bed and in the middle of the night after every feeding.  For this reason, it is best to quit night-time feeding before the age of one.

Just like most moms, I started introducing solids into Bianca’s diet around 6 months of age.  As she ate more solids she started drinking less formula.  At 9 months of age I started moving her last bottle to dinner time and I would brush her teeth right after.  Instead of putting her to sleep with formula, I started putting warm water in the bottle and she fell sleep with the warm water just fine.  In the middle of the night when she wakes up, I would feed her water again.  She usually has a few sips then falls right asleep.  It seems that she was drinking mainly for comfort rather than hunger.

Now that she’s a little more than one year old,  I simply give her water in a sippy cup at bedtime.  I also put a full sippy cup with water in her crib so she can drink it herself if she wakes up in the middle of the night.  So far it’s been working very nicely.

If you have trouble weaning your infant or young toddler from bedtime feeding, consider talking to your pediatric dentist or pediatrician about it.  For those of you living in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact me at Red Rock Kids Dental.


Bianca at Her First Dental Check-up with Mommy