Studies attending the postnatal clinic of the University

Studies in different parts of Nigeria have
demonstrated that the predominance of dental caries which may be due to not
proper breastfeeding practice during infancy is between 6.4-35.5%.2 Most
health care professionals believe that breastfeeding your child has positive
effects on the development of their oral health; thus, breasted babies have an
increased chance of superior dental health compared to artificially-fed babies.
This study wanted to assess postnatal mothers’ perception of the benefits of
breastfeeding in prevention of diseases such as dental caries and/or
malocclusion in infants.

The study included 206 mothers attending the postnatal
clinic of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in Nigeria which
completed a questionnaire after giving oral consent and being assured of
confidentiality. The questionnaire involved information on socio-demographic
characteristics, duration of breastfeeding, knowledge of specific disorders,
use of infant feeding formula etc. The results were then analysed using statistics
Stata version 12. The survey showed that 90.3% of mothers initiated
breastfeeding their infant as early as 3 days of delivery, and 94.2% of them
breastfed for over 3 months. Furthermore, 78 out of the 206 mothers introduced
the child to milk formula after just 3 months; 45 of the mothers did that due
to resumption of official duties, 25 to pursue their educational goals and 8
due to insufficient production of breast milk. At the end of the study, 180
mothers were motivated to breastfeed their baby for longer periods.

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Parents often receive misleading information about
newborn babies’ oral health and breastfeeding, however the benefits of
breastfeeding are numerous and include resistance to infectious diseases and
improved immune system. The act of breastfeeding was well-accepted in Nigeria,
in fact the study showed that more

than 90% of the participants commenced breastfeeding
within 3 days of giving birth due to receiving antenatal health consultation on
its benefits; for this matter, mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their
infants for at least six months. It was suggested that children who had tooth
decay during their infancy tend to have caries in their deciduous dentition and
are more likely to also develop caries in their permanent teeth; so, an early
assessment between 7-9 months of age in breastfed babies could identify high
risk patients.

Breastfeeding also encourages the infant’s breathing,
helps a better positioning of the tongue and improves development of oral
muscles.

 

The study demonstrated reduction in risk of
malocclusion, thrush and sleep apnoea; the knowledge of these benefits was
extremely low among the mothers studied, and this information should be made
known to breastfeeding mothers. Therefore, healthcare professionals such as
nurses, physicians and other consultants who are more likely to counsel mothers
should let them understand the advantages of breastfeeding as regards dental
health during childhood.