September is baby safety month, so in this blog we discuss a few lesser known food-related problems babies can have.
Baby bottle tooth decay
Most commonly affecting the upper front teeth in babies and infants, tooth decay occurs when a child's mouth is infected by acid-producing bacteria. These bacteria can enter the baby's mouths by contamination of food and objects with the parents' saliva, such as food utensils (adult sharing food off their own fork with baby), a dummy or pacifier (adult holding it in their lips first before giving to baby) or even via food itself (adult testing how warm it is before feeding).
Once the bacteria are in the baby's mouth, sugar consumption activates the bacteria to produce acid that attacks tooth enamel. Babies and small children are commonly affected by sugar found in breast and formula milk, juice and sugary drinks. This is why using a baby bottle in place of a pacifier, or the baby having a bottle with them in bed, can act as a catalyst for tooth decay.
Childhood obesity is on the rise, so even though overfeeding a baby may be rare, it is worth considering nutrition, diet and portion sizes from early on in a child’s life .
It is more common for babies who are bottle-fed to eat too much, as drinking from a bottle takes less effort than from the breast. Some parents may encourage the baby to eat more than they need if they want to encourage weight gain, or due to concerns over wastage of costly formula milk.
Some babies themselves simply have a love for sucking, so can continue to eat even when full because they enjoy the feeling of feeding!
Adding supplements to milk is also another cause for overfeeding, for example, a popular myth suggests a baby will sleep longer if you add rice cereal to their formula. This has been disproved by scientific study and poses a choking risk.
Foods to avoid
Once a baby is old enough to start weaning from milk to solids, it’s a good thing to encourage babies to try lots of variations of texture and flavours. Some foods should be avoided however, such as honey and cow's milk, and foods that pose a choking risk.
All forms of honey should be avoided for babies under 1 year of age, as it can contain bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) that produces a toxin-secreting spore. A baby's GI tract is not developed enough to deal with these toxins, and they can cause constipation, muscle weakness and a reduction in muscle tone, and even paralysis.
Cow’s milk should also be avoided up until the baby’s first birthday, as enzymes and proteins found in cow’s milk cannot be easily digested by the baby, whilst some minerals present in milk can cause damage to their kidneys.
Citrus juice and fruits can cause acid reflux and an upset tummy, due to the high amounts of acid and Vitamin C.
Finally, be careful of the solids the baby consumes as its size and hardness can potentially be a choking hazard. Small hard food should not be fed to babies such as nuts, raisins, seeds or popcorn, and fruit such as grapes should be halved or quartered before feeding. Be wary of soft food as well, such as jelly, as it can easily become lodged in a baby’s throat. Always be present with a baby when they're eating and carers should familiarise themselves with basic life saving techniques to help a baby if they choke.
Baby safety related AnatomyStuff resources:
Further reading / sources
Common problems with newborns
Baby bottle tooth decay
Rice cereal study
Study into low income parents and overfeeding
Solid foods to avoid