Studies in different parts of Nigeria havedemonstrated that the predominance of dental caries which may be due to notproper breastfeeding practice during infancy is between 6.4-35.5%.
2 Mosthealth care professionals believe that breastfeeding your child has positiveeffects on the development of their oral health; thus, breasted babies have anincreased chance of superior dental health compared to artificially-fed babies.This study wanted to assess postnatal mothers’ perception of the benefits ofbreastfeeding in prevention of diseases such as dental caries and/ormalocclusion in infants. The study included 206 mothers attending the postnatalclinic of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in Nigeria whichcompleted a questionnaire after giving oral consent and being assured ofconfidentiality. The questionnaire involved information on socio-demographiccharacteristics, duration of breastfeeding, knowledge of specific disorders,use of infant feeding formula etc. The results were then analysed using statisticsStata version 12. The survey showed that 90.3% of mothers initiatedbreastfeeding their infant as early as 3 days of delivery, and 94.
2% of thembreastfed for over 3 months. Furthermore, 78 out of the 206 mothers introducedthe child to milk formula after just 3 months; 45 of the mothers did that dueto resumption of official duties, 25 to pursue their educational goals and 8due to insufficient production of breast milk. At the end of the study, 180mothers were motivated to breastfeed their baby for longer periods.
Parents often receive misleading information aboutnewborn babies’ oral health and breastfeeding, however the benefits ofbreastfeeding are numerous and include resistance to infectious diseases andimproved immune system. The act of breastfeeding was well-accepted in Nigeria,in fact the study showed that more than 90% of the participants commenced breastfeedingwithin 3 days of giving birth due to receiving antenatal health consultation onits benefits; for this matter, mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed theirinfants for at least six months. It was suggested that children who had toothdecay during their infancy tend to have caries in their deciduous dentition andare more likely to also develop caries in their permanent teeth; so, an earlyassessment between 7-9 months of age in breastfed babies could identify highrisk patients.Breastfeeding also encourages the infant’s breathing,helps a better positioning of the tongue and improves development of oralmuscles. The study demonstrated reduction in risk ofmalocclusion, thrush and sleep apnoea; the knowledge of these benefits wasextremely low among the mothers studied, and this information should be madeknown to breastfeeding mothers.
Therefore, healthcare professionals such asnurses, physicians and other consultants who are more likely to counsel mothersshould let them understand the advantages of breastfeeding as regards dentalhealth during childhood.