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Module 3: Prevention of Tooth Decay

3.3 Feeding and Eating Practices

  • Do not put the infant or child to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup or allow frequent and prolonged bottle feedings or use of a sippy cup containing beverages containing sugar (for example, fruit drinks, soda, or fruit juice), milk, or formula during the day or at night.
  • Do not use a bottle to calm an infant or to put an infant to bed. Instead of a bottle try:
    • Giving the infant a favorite blanket or toy
    • Offering the infant a clean pacifier
    • Holding, patting, or rocking the infant
    • Reading to the infant
    • Softly talking or singing to the infant
  • If an infant is accustomed to being put to bed with a bottle, offer a bottle filled with plain water.
  • Hold the infant or child while feeding. Never prop a bottle (that is, use pillows or any other objects to hold a bottle in the infant’s mouth).
  • Never add cereal to a bottle. This causes sugary fluids to pool around the teeth and can also cause choking if the infant is unable to swallow the extra food. Instead, always feed infants and children solid foods with a spoon or fork, or, if the infant or child is coordinated enough, encourage self-feeding.
  • Introduce a small cup when the infant can sit up without support.
  • As the infant begins to eat more solid foods and drink from a cup, the infant can be weaned from the bottle. Begin to wean the infant gradually, at about 9 to 10 months. By 12 to 14 months, most infants can drink from a cup.
  • Do not dip pacifiers in sweetened foods like sugar or honey.
  • Serve age-appropriate healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables, grain products (especially whole grain), and dairy products instead of foods containing sugar such as candy, cookies, or cake. (See Module 4, section 4.6.)
  • Offer snacks at regular times between meals only. If a child snacks frequently, brush the child’s teeth three times a day.
  • Make sure the child drinks plenty of water throughout the day, especially between meals and snacks.
  • Don’t offer food in return for good behavior. This teaches children that foods are rewards and can lead to the development of unhealthy habits.
mother comforting young girl in bed
father comforting toddler at bedtime