"Breast-feeding was associated with 40 percent reduced risk for early childhood caries until we threw factors such as poverty status, maternal age at child's birth, and maternal prenatal smoking in the analyses," he explained. Additionally, breast-fed Mexican-American children and breast-fed poor children were more likely to have cavities than other children, even when compared to those who were not breast-fed.
The concern over breast milk and cavity risk was corroborated in part by a 2005 study in rats that showed that human breast milk is more likely than cow's milk to encourage cavities.
Pediatrician and breast-feeding advocate Dr. Ruth Lawrence, a co-author of the animal study, acknowledged that the results fueled the fire of those in opposition to night nursing.
Letting a baby sleep with a bottle of anything other than plain water carries a greater risk of encouraging cavities than night nursing, said Lawrence, who says she would use the current study to reassure nursing mothers.
However, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) spokesman Paul Casamassimo was more cautious.
"The literature in general is not clear in a relationship between breast-feeding and dental caries, but reports and a few studies have found relationships," he said.
Although the AAPD does not have a policy statement about breast-feeding, Casamassimo said the academy tries to educate parents to minimize the risk of cavities from any food or beverage.
Breast-feeding aside, Iida argued that pediatric dentists and public health practitioners should direct oral health efforts toward parents in low-income households, smoking mothers and Mexican-American households.
Casamassimo argued that the correlation between poverty and increased risk of cavities is well known and may explain,
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