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Where does the myth about needing to wean when the teeth come in stem from?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

Our family friend and trusted *super* naturopathic doctor recently told me that I need to eventually wean my now 2 month old when her teeth come in. I was shocked, and honestly so shocked that I didn't really even process what he said as the reason afterwards. I think he cited some study or something, but where are these studies?


It just seems weird to me because if her teeth come in early (say 4 or 5 months) she will obviously still need milk. But how can a natural doctor think that formula is better than breastmilk at any age??? Even if we wait until she is one, she would then start taking cow's milk...which is even weirder - how is milk from another species better than human milk for a human baby at any age?


Anyway, do any of you have any idea where this myth comes from? It just seems arbitrary and cultural to me, but not based on science (which normally this doctor is very well versed in all alternative/natural studies).



post #2 of 26
I thinks some have misconceptions about teeth coming in wrong/crooked if nursing or bottle fed. I think maybe they think you should start solids at that point. I have two very well-fed (solids) children with beautifully straight teeth that breastfed well into toddlerhood. DS until 3, and Dd still nurses at 2.
post #3 of 26
I thought it might have been because he thought her teeth would get rotted or something. But I don't know the answer. I wonder if anyone else does? Maybe someone has been told this and asked why.
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 

Mama Amie - the doctor was definitely talking about full on weaning (not just solids) whenever the teeth come in.


Maybe this is confusion with bottle use or pacifier use? I know I've heard about thumbsucking causing crooked teeth, but regular breastfeeding? Is this part of the myth? 


I am just interested in learning about the root of this myth because I would like to start a conversation with the doctor. Hopefully I can change his mind!

post #5 of 26

i know teenages still sucking their tumb at time (at home) & no crooked teeth & never needed to visit an orthodontist + read in a LLL publication that "long term" breasfeeding does help with the correct alignment of teeth ...


maybe that doctor came across one person who was bitten when nursing and then "imagined" there must be a "rule" about it .... i don't believe there is a study to "prove " that point ... it's just ignorance due to the drop in number of women breasfeeding in the last 100 years which means that knowledge about it has been lost .... due to marketing (my dad was a doctor in the late 50's and i know they were given free sample of formula to promote amongst their patients & since it was coming from America, it had this aura of being modern and the "in" thing to do ...)


i remember having a LLL pamphlet in my hands 10 years ago that stated that amongst child led weaned children, the average age for self weaning was 2.5 years


my eldest was weaned at 19months old (because i was pregnant and very sensitive with my breast) but then we discovered she was milk intolerant (very very bad nappy rash) so i had to restrict dairy product quite drastically until she turned 2 ....=> hence my commitment to try breasfeeding her siblings beyond the 2 years mark

... by which time of course they all had teeth

(DD2 got to her first birthday with only one tooth ... but she had been gumming real food for a while by then ...)

post #6 of 26

There is no need to end nursing or start solids when teeth come in. My kids had teeth by 3 months, and were certainly not ready for either of those at that point.

post #7 of 26

My 20mo has a head full of teeth and still nurses without issue.  I wouldn't see how a breast would misalign teeth since they pretty mcuh conform to baby's mouth while nursing.  Pacifier and bottle maybe, but even the whole notion that a bottle taken to bed will rot teeth - my LO nurses to bed every night and I certainly don't brush her teeth while she's asleep and her teeth are just fine.  I've heard the arguement that other mammals wean once teeth come in, but even then there's a diff between a carnivore with needle sharp teeth, and an herbivore with flat teeth.  Not to mention most times humans intervene to wean sooner than the mom might naturally - just look at breeders who start pups on solids at 4 mos by removing mom and giving them no other option.  I've had plenty of people tell me "oh once she has teeth she's going to bite so you'll want to stop.  Well, I've only been bitten a handfull of times, never maliciously, usually when there's teething going on and the milk isn't coming fast enough to sooth her. 

post #8 of 26

My guess would be a lot of it came from mothers who don't want their boob to bitten. I would that even if you do have a baby who bites there would be a way to teach them not to. But this is my first pregnancy so I don't have experience with it. 

post #9 of 26

My guess is it's a combination of fear of the mother being bitten and the concept that a child with teeth is ready to begin solid foods, both of which provide a very limited picture of the weaning process.


Regarding the mother being bitten - a child with a correct latch may continue to nurse successfully for months or even years following the first eruption of teeth without biting being a problem. Granted, there may be a few small set-backs directly at the time of teething (or there may not be). My daughter nursed for almost 11 months with only the most occasional "biting" issues associated with teething (she got her first teeth under 4 months), and even those few episodes were fairly easily dealt with. At around 10 1/2 months, she did begin biting to the point that it was not a problem that could be corrected, and my milk supply began to dwindle as we were not successfully nursing. We made the difficult decision to switch her to formula until her next check-up at the doctor, who said that barring any intolerance we could switch to whole milk although she was under 1 year (which we did successfully). But I've known many mothers to nurse far longer and even after the eruption of teeth without issue, so it is not true that teeth necessarily equal biting problems.


And regarding the child with teeth being ready for solids, while it can be an indicator and "on average" teeth seem to begin appearing around the 6 month mark when a child is ready for solids, there are many other factors to be taken into consideration such as head control, gag reflex, etc. These first teeth are not even chewing teeth, and a child is not ready for foods that cannot be "gummed" until well into their first year. Nor should solid foods be the primary source of nutrition for a child under 1.


I too, like Mama Amie, wonder if it might have been a suggestion that the introduction of solids might be started at that time (as this can also be interchangeably referred to as weaning), and again, although there's an "all-encompassing" suggestion of 6 months for this, a child's individual readiness will depend on their own development with some who might possibly be ready at closer to 4 months or so or others who won't be ready until 9 months or beyond.


Like you, I am shocked by the information you were given, and I'd look for an opportunity to discuss this in depth, as I'd also want to know if this doctor is providing the same information on early weaning to others and what exactly is being described as weaning, as I can see no benefits to mother or baby in changing breast milk for formula if there are no other real issues other than teeth.

post #10 of 26

I've heard from BF'ing moms that teething does present a challenge, and some did wean in response to that while others didn't and instead tried finding solutions that allowed them to keep BFing. 


My MIL, who is very pro-BFing and did so with her kids said teething was when she stopped because they each started just chewing on her after 6-7mos of trouble-free Bf'ing, and they were so interested in solid foods that it was almost a self-wean at that time. She seemed to think it meant her kids were just ready for solid foods, and that's OK I think. 


I don't have experience with curtailing a biter, but maybe someone else does. 


Then, a while back on the forums I remember seeing another challenge of BFing after teeth come in, which is "bottle-rot," which can also happen with breastmilk. Basically, their little teeth get cavities from from the milk and/or formula sugars when they aren't receiving dental care like brushing and rinsing with water. I remember this poster was devastated because her baby had rotten teeth at barely a year old, which is not a good start to dental health. 


A lot of people suggested she at least nightwean and brush the baby's teeth after the last feeding of the day to prevent bacterial growth. Maybe you can find that thread to anticipate the problem? 


Obviously these things have solutions, so I don't know why he'd jump straight to weaning, but I also don't think there's anything wrong with weaning before some magic date if that's what YOUR baby seems to need. 

post #11 of 26

I really don't know where this idea may have come from, but I have nursed all my kids well past getting their first teeth without any issues other than the occasional bite.  It does hurt, of course, but I just remove them from the breast immediately and say "No bite mommy."  They only do it once or twice, and always only when teething.  THis was never a reason for me to stop nursing, although I have heard people who have because of it.


Two of my kids have needed braces, but that was for teeth that never emerged from the gums, not because anything was crooked or misaligned.

post #12 of 26

Both my kids got their first teeth at 3 months.  So this doctor is saying I needed to wean them to solids at that point?

post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 

I brought this up with my local La Leche League leader and she said perhaps it was the biting issue as well. She also suggested I print off WHO and AAP information about 2-year and 1-year breastfeeding recommendations and give them to my doctor.


JenVose, I definitely feel the same as you - I want to help our doctor give correct information to other mom-baby pairs about weaning/breastfeeding. I hope our next conversation on the matter goes well.

post #14 of 26
Wow, that's crazy. I also had an early teether. My baby had eight teeth before he ever tried solid food. He is now 12 months and getting in his molars and still nurses. I can't say we didn't have problems with biting though! It was bad when he was teething and was only 3-5 months old and didn't even know he was biting. Since then, he has occasionally bit me to get a reaction. It hurts, but it's not the worst thing in the world.

Apparently it is not true that breastfeeding leads to tooth decay, though bottle feeding can: http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/tooth-decay/
post #15 of 26

I agree that teething is a major problem for a mother who does not want to wean the baby very early. The experiences differ widely in this regard. I have known mothers who virtually howl, especially when the men are not around, when bitten and also the mothers who try to learn to bear the excruciating pain - quite often while breastfeeding at a public place. Of course proper latching and disciplining of the baby matter a lot. But, on the whole, biting by the baby should not be a consideration for deciding to wean.


post #16 of 26
All four of mine had teeth between 3 and 4 months.

Biting has happened, like others said when baby is teething. I found the best way to delatch a biter is to cover their nose briefly. The baby quickly opens their mouth and learns that biting interrupts nursing. Not a reason to wean.

I would give this doctor more information.
post #17 of 26

I agree - I think it comes from both the misconception that nursing can cause teeth rot, teeth to grow wrong and the many that I know who have stopped it's because of biting. My DS bit me a few times and there was one time he clamped down that I thought I would die. I think it was in a Dr. Sears book that I read about leaning further in with my breast and body for a second which is all it takes for the baby to realize that biting can result in interupted breathing. And after two times of doing this he never did it again and we are still nursing years later :).


At first I was unsure how I felt about scaring him by leaning my breast in like that but it's barely a split second and the baby backs away and at least in my case it "nipped" it in the bud with two practices of that and it perserved our nursing realtionship.

post #18 of 26
I don't know what causes tooth rot, but I've seen enough from moms who EBF whose kids get it to know it's not just "bottle rot"
post #19 of 26

I wish I knew where this myth started. It's frustrating and had hoped that it would have died out by now, Hearing it from a doctor just... burns my biscuits! There are NO "studies" that one needs to wean when teeth come in, None. There are some studies that one shouldn't let a baby take a bottle of formula, cow milk or juice to bed, because it will pool around the teeth and decay may set it.


However, breastfeeding causes automatic swallowing. (Bottle feeding doesn't cause this reflex.)  Babies don't LIE, even when asleep, with human milk pooled in their mouths while breastfeeding. Doctors who take studies done on bottle fed children and try to extrapolate the results to fit breastfed babies irritate me to no end. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding are physiologically  VERY different processes, from where the milk is deposited in the mouth, to how many muscles are used (many many more facial muscles used with breastfeeding) to what triggers swallowing and more. One simply cannot compare the two, so any "studies" done on one do not apply to the other.


Most people living and who have ever lived on this earth have been nursed while teething and even after they had a full set of teeth. I know all my children breastfed past the point where they had all their baby teeth. No decay, no rot, and I was only bitten twice in well over 9 years of cumulative breastfeeding. (Once was intentional....)


It's so sad to see an "educated" man like this doctor passing on untrue second hand "facts" to his patients. My question would be: If he doesn't know the truth about this most important process, what else doesn't he know that might be important to you and your child?

post #20 of 26

Here is a little bit about WHY NOT to wean your child too early -  http://www.brianpalmerdds.com/bfing_reduces.htm   - from a dentist  who realized the 10,000 yr old paleolithic skeletons he studies all had two things in common - perfect teeth and jaw - AND they were all breastfed!

i think its an old fear of biting  - extrapolated to the extreme - i mean - does this guy really think a 5 month old should be weaned???   - Interestingly - i have nursed my youngest for 3 years and never been bitten - but my DS1  'bit' me terribly when he was 9 months old and had no teeth yet!  - he bit down and then pulled his head back...lord i saw stars!  

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