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Link between ear infections, bottle feeding & pacifiers

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Link between ear infections, bottle feeding & pacifiers

Comfort sucking with milk in bottles

Many babies are left with a bottle of milk in their cot. Parents do this in an attempt to reduce their disturbed sleep. Also hoping the toddler will help themselves in the middle of the night. However the health issues it can cause may make most parents think twice. It's a short cut to try and get more sleep. As well as causing night waking it can lead to serious health problems.

Prop feeding 

Sucking on a bottle of milk when baby is laying flat or prop feeding causes ear infections and tooth decay. The eustachian tube, the tube that connects the back of the throat with the middle ear, is more horizontal. The bottle and teat create a vacuum, allowing milk and bacteria to travel easily from the back of the mouth to the middle ear. Milk is acting as a culture medium, growing the germs that cause ear infections.

Tooth decay

Ear infections aren't the only potential hazard from this parenting practice. Offering bottles of milk in the night or breast feeds increases the risk of tooth decay. At night babies don’t produce saliva which protects teeth against decay. The baby teeth have little enamel on them.

When babies are formula fed and night waking for feeds many parents water the milk down, hoping this behaviour will stop. In practice I’ve not found this to be helpful at all. Have a read of a typical case study from Olivia 15 months.

Case study – Olivia aged 15 months

Olivia had been waking every night for 4 months at 3:30am for a bottle of water. She had a pacifier for bed only but had recently started using a second dummy as a security item rather than the soft toy/blanket previously used. Her parents went on a holiday cruise to Tasmania and Olivia’s sleep was so bad they were very tempted to fly back and cut the cruise short. They stopped the milk in the bottle by watering it down until it was only water she was getting. However Olivia continued to wake for the bottle. Because her parents were giving the bottle to her, that created the night waking. Within a night of sleep training with Magic Presence™ the dummy and bottle were no more. And she has slept through every night since. We took away her pacifier and bottle as both were likely to cause the night waking. It really wasn’t that difficult. Olivia protested/cried for an hour at bedtime and slept through the night with no intervention needed. A lot of parents are frightened to take pacifiers/dummies away because they feel that is their only resource. In reality the effect of taking it away at this age is far easier than a 4-7 month old baby

Freya and dummy

Pacifiers and ear infections

Pacifiers create similar issues to bottles of milk for babies. Researchers in Finland found a 33% reduction in the rate of ear infections when pacifier use was limited.

They recommend reducing pacifier use and only using the pacifier when baby is falling asleep after 6 months of age and discontinuing it completely after 10 months of age.

Finnish research 

Finland University researchers studied 845 children attending day care for fifteen months. They monitored factors which might influence the number of ear infections. Including breast feeding, parental smoking, thumb sucking, bottle use, and social class. Pacifier use was the biggest causal behaviour increasing the frequency of ear infections by 50%. In children under two years of age, pacifier use increased the average number of annual ear infections from 3.6 to 5.4. In children aged 2-3 years, pacifier use increased infection rate from 1.9 to 2.7 ear infections per year.

It is thought that pacifier use stops eustachian tube functioning (which usually keeps the middle ear open and clean), or the pacifier is acting as a germ covered object in spreading infection. This is particularly important in relation to daycare when children share their dummies and they are dropped on the floor.

Yet another very good reason to stop your baby’s dummy use before starting daycare and put an end to those night bottles in the cot.

? Read more on how to remove your toddler’s dummy/pacifier…/

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