It is important to ‘graduate’ your child from a bottle to a cup from around the 6 month mark. This process can take up until their first birthday. Delayed graduation (2 years) from a bottle has been linked to dental issues.
Practices like your little one going to bed with a bottle should also be discouraged. If your baby is breastfed you should begin introducing a cup from around 6 months with cooled boiled water.
When your little one’s teeth start to appear try to avoid unstructured feeding times of milk. Lactose is a natural sugar that occurs in both breastmilk and formula, that when in constant contact with milk teeth, can sometimes ‘pool’ around the edges of the teeth and cause decay.
“Dietary practices can affect dental health and the amount and frequency of sugar consumption is particularly important. Infants less than 12 months of age should follow a no-added sugar diet and keep sugar-rich foods to a minimum.”
As both milestones of beginning to wean onto complementary foods and the appearance of teeth happen at around the same time, it is so important to be aware of what is in the food that you are feeding your little one. The FSAI recommend a ‘no-added sugar’ diet and that weaning promotes healthy eating habits and promotes healthy dental hygiene. Foods that are cariogenic (cause tooth decay due to changing the pH balance inside the mouth) are foods such as those that contain added sugar, sugary foods and sweetened drinks. These should be avoided at all costs in the early stages to avoid tooth decay. Fresh or canned fruits contain an amount of naturally occurring sugars, however it is important to have these a part of your little one’s diet and should not be avoided. Some healthy snack options include fresh fruit and veg, natural yoghurt and cheese.
You should begin brushing your little one’s teeth as soon as they appear. You can use a small soft baby toothbrush and tap water. You do not need to use toothpaste until 2 years of age. A good routine is great for positively impacting dental hygiene practices later in life!
To read more, check out the below link for the National Infant Feeding Policy.