World-leading dentists and dental scientists recently expressed their concern about the effects of incorrect bottle-feeding on the oral health of babies. They are concerned that poor bottle-feeding practices may have increasing risks and cause damage to developing teeth.

According to the New Zealand Dental Association, there is an increase in the number of children with tooth decay caused by bottle misuse. Sometimes the damage is really serious and in many cases dentists are forced to remove rotten teeth.

Practices to avoid are:
- Putting the bottle in bed with your child or propping the bottle while feeding (milk will pool around your littlie’s teeth and gums, especially if she falls asleep)
- Putting sugar into the milk or filling the bottle with flavoured milk
- Giving sweet drinks such as cordial and juice in the bottle.

5 Tips For healthy Bottlefeeding from Dr Ginni Mansburg

1. Hygiene first
The first thing I ask my patients who are bottlefeeding their babies is about how they’re cleaning their bottles. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that bacteria just love milk residue. Milk gunk left in bottles entices germs into your precious baby’s bottle and takes her straight to sick city. But I draw the line at sterilising. It is simply NOT necessary. There is no evidence that sterilising bottles prevents any infections in babies. It is expensive, time-consuming (and who has time when you have a newborn in the house?) and in the case of chemical solutions, it may give you eczema. Washing your baby’s bottles with a bottle brush and then either in the top rack of the dishwasher or a sink of hot soapy water and then rinsing is absolutely fine.

2. Follow the instructions
Formulas are designed to replicate breastmilk as much as possible. Usually I hate having to be uptight on any matter but the exact mix of powder to water is vital. Giving the wrong ratio can leave baby starving (if too weak) or constipated to high heaven (if too concentrated). It’s important to follow the instructions on the formula tin exactly when mixing. Unfortunately, each formula is different (some require 40mls of water per scoop, others 50mls). Stick to the instructions on the label and you can’t go wrong.

3. Banish bad habits
Letting your baby fall asleep on the bottle in the first month or so is a fact of life. But once your baby gets old enough to have distinct sleeping and waking times, this bad habit can become a rod for your own back. Make sure you don’t use the bottle as a sleep-aid and put your baby down when she’s had enough rather than letting him suck his way to sleep

4. Not for toddlers
Drinking from a bottle after 12 months of age is linked to obesity, ear infections and tooth decay. Enough said! At the first birthday, the bottle has to go. Worried your toddler won’t get enough milk? She needs around 600ml a day to have all her calcium needs met. This could easily be replaced by four ‘serves’ of dairy products like a slice of cheese, a small tub of yoghurt or tinned salmon or tofu if you are lucky enough to have a toddler who eats these things! Then switch to water in a cup for all her fluids and you’re cooking with gas.

5. Safety matters
Microwave heating of bottles is quick and easy but it’s uneven. This leaves ‘hot spots’ that can burn baby’s mouth if she sips from that part of the bottle.

Also, don’t let baby feed herself as this poses a pretty serious choking risk.

Lastly, discard unused formula and don’t reuse it later as it will have much higher bacteria counts once it has come in contact with baby’s mouth and been left warm for some period of time.

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