Apart from the dentists in those stories, what I read in What to Expect…, and what I found on the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s website, I couldn’t locate any other source supporting stopping breastfeeding at night after the first tooth appears. Even the Academy’s website makes their recommendation seem wobbly, with references to the fact that the “literature is unclear on this relationship [between breastfeeding and cavities]”. I did, however, find plenty of information arguing against the idea of night breastfeeding causing cavities. One study looked at skulls of children from 500-1,000 years ago and found no connection between breastfeeding and tooth decay. Another study placed teeth in different solutions and found that breastmilk was practically identical to water in its effect on teeth. Decay problems arose when small amounts of sugar were added to the breastmilk. Much of what I read echoed this fact: it’s the combination of sugar and/or food particles and breastmilk that could cause problems. Proper and regular brushing before bed will minimize this risk. So when Violet’s first tooth pops through her gums, we’ll be sure to start brushing it before we kiss her good night, but breastfeeding at night will continue.
There’s a lot more information than what I’ve mentioned here. There are other factors that can increase the risk of tooth decay in kids, including genetics and fetal development. If you’re interested in reading more, I’ve included some links below. I’ll end with my favorite find because it supports what I thought when I first read the recommendation that we stop breastfeeding with the first tooth’s arrival. Why would such a flaw in our makeup exist? It didn’t make sense to me. We humans aren’t perfect animals, but to be designed so that our first food rots our teeth seemed unlikely and illogical.
There are 4,640 species of mammals, all of whom breastfeed their young. Lactose is present in most of the breastmilk of these species. Humans are but one species of mammals, but are the only species with any significant [tooth] decay. Mammals… have been on the earth for 2 to 4 million years. Modern Homo sapiens have been around for 30,000 to 35,000 years. Dental decay, however, did not become a significant problem until about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Anthropologists believe the increase in decay was primarily due to the advent of the cultivated crops. Some anthropologists believe it would be evolutionary suicide for breastmilk to cause decay and that evolution would have selected against it.