We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of having a calm, predictable bedtime routine filled with similar activities to help your child wind down and recognize cues that sleep time is coming. Many people include nursing or a bottle as a part of that nice calm down routine and end up feeding their baby to sleep. Today I am here to tell you that this is a practice I absolutely do not recommend.
I remember those early days with my first baby. We got ourselves into a nice routine. I would nurse her until she fell asleep. I put her into her bed and walked out of the room. This cycle would repeat over and over throughout the night. Feed, sleep, crib repeat! This may seem fantastic except there are a few looming concerns to consider with this type of routine.
(My first baby’s first little tooth!)
- A sleep association like this requires parent’s assistance to replicate it throughout the night, thus taking away from your baby’s ability to figure out other ways to get themselves back to sleep.
- (the main reason I am writing this today) It can harm your baby’s new little teeth.
Lisa Barber, a registered dental hygienist with the Porcupine Health Unit cautions parents when it comes to allowing their babies to fall asleep at the breast or with a bottle because “The sugar will remain on the child’s teeth through the night and can damage the enamel and cause tooth decay”.
Brush Teeth First
When working with parents I recommend a routine that allows for time for good dental hygiene practices. We do this more naturally with our older children, brush their teeth, read a story and put them to bed. This practice is something we however, seem to be more reluctant to do this with our babies and toddlers, because that feed-sleep association works so well.
For babies a bedtime routine that includes feeding is great, we want baby to go to bed with a nice full belly, but don’t feed your baby to sleep. After you feed your baby take the time to go and brush their teeth. “Even before a baby has teeth, a clean damp face cloth should be used after feedings or after having anything other than water in the mouth. This prepares baby early for what should become a lifelong habit” Barber recommends. Once teeth show up in the picture she also recommends adding, “a soft baby sized toothbrush and small amount of toothpaste” to your routine.
As a final note for Barber encourages parents to floss as a good lifelong habit. She also recommends to “look at the child’s teeth and mouth regularly; lift the upper lip to look for problems that may go undetected such as white chalky spots or a brown appearance”. Make sure that you are adding enough time to your bedtime routine to have a good look at your baby’s ever changing mouth. I would also add that breaking this sleep association will allow your baby/toddler the chance to learn new ways to fall asleep. If they are given the opportunity to fall asleep on their own they may be less likely to wake and for you to come put them back to sleep.
So there you have it. 2 very good reasons to kick that feeding to sleep habit today!
As an added note, I was surprised to hear that the Porcupine Health Unit recommends that parents brush their children’s teeth until the child is 8 years old! I had started letting my daughter brush her own teeth but am now more involved with this process once again.
For more information on how to brush your kids teeth Barber recommends checking out this cite: