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Little ones get invited to birthday parties almost every month, which means that I, also get invited to birthday parties almost every month. While she enjoys the games, I catch up with the adults and enjoy the plethora of treats on offer. Because I’m a dentist, the conversation often steers toward cavities, fillings, dental experiences and dental expenses. At least once, I’m asked, “Katelyn doesn’t have any cavities in her teeth, does she? Is this because you don’t let her eat any treats? Share your dentist secrets!!”


Sorry to disappoint.

There are no secret short-cuts to keeping cavities away. The basics of regular toothbrushing, flossing and eating healthy are still the gold standards for good oral health. 

Even healthy foods, like fresh fruits, grains and breads, can result in dental cavities if residuals are left in the mouth for long. Although research suggests that when compared to added sugars or free sugars, natural sugars in fresh fruitsbreads and grains do not contribute significantly to the development of dental decay. However, natural sugars are still sugars. 

It is also worth considering that carbohydrates, including starch, break down to glucose – a basic sugar, that not only fuels our bodies and minds but also fuel the cavity-causing germs in our mouth to produce acids that destroy our teeth. We even have enzymes in our saliva (they are called “amylases”) to kickstart the carbohydrate breakdown process.

It’s true, Katelyn doesn’t have dental cavities to date, but it’s not because we are ultra-disciplined with treats. We have a strict daily regimen of flossing and toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste. This routine happens morning and night regardless of moods, tantrums, and tiredness. If she falls asleep, the toothbrush still goes in and toothbrushing is still done. When she was little, her father and I did her toothbrushing and flossing for her. Now that she’s older, we help only at night.

The aim is for good oral hygiene practices to become second nature. Early establishment of desirable oral hygiene habits have been shown to provide long-term protective effects against oral problems such as tooth decay.

As for treats? Most children enjoy treats! I enjoy treats! I’ve not seen consistent success in preventing cavities by forbidding treats. It takes way too much discipline to totally eradicate treats from our pantries, probably more so than regular toothbrushing and flossing. When it comes to food and drinks, a balanced diet for overall health and well-being, remains key.

Don’t Forget, it’s not Just Sugars That are Bad for Teeth

Acid-loving-acid-producing germs cause dental decay, which when allowed to progress over time, becomes a dental cavity as teeth structures are destroyed. Even acids alone, without cavity-causing germs, can be destructive to teeth structures and result in dental erosion. When both dental erosion and dental decay occur in the same mouth, destruction of teeth structures may occur more quickly, resulting in bigger, deeper cavities and toothaches. The problems become exponentially worse when residual foods, sugars and/or acids are allowed to stay on the surfaces of teeth for extended periods of time. Sticky foods and drinks are especially difficult to clear completely from the mouth.

Sweet + Sour + Sticky = Sick Sad Teeth

Treat temptations aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, but certain types of treats are worth avoiding if possible. When it comes to choosing treats, my family avoids treats that are of the “3 S” category – treats that are SWEET and SOUR and STICKY, because “sweet + sour + sticky = sick sad teeth”.  For example, we try to stay away from juices, dried fruits, toffees, candies and carbonated drinks.

Avoid Frequent Treats

Cavities are also more likely to form when our teeth are “attacked” by frequent eating and drinking. Every time we eat and drink, the oral environment becomes acidic (oral pH decreases) which put our tooth structures at risk of destruction. The saliva in our mouth helps to balance the oral pH back to “happy neutral mode”. If the oral pH does not get to recover in time for the next “attack”, irreversible destruction of the tooth structures becomes more likely. For this reason, in my family, we try to have treats all once rather than having treats throughout the day. Avoiding treats just before bed might also be helpful since when we sleep, there is less saliva to protect our teeth.

Drink Water

We also make sure we drink plenty of water after food, regardless of it being treats or healthy foods, with the aim of clearing some of the residuals away from our teeth and mouth. If drinks other than water are consumed, a drinking straw is used if at all possible and swishing avoided, to reduce contact with teeth surfaces. (I even drink my latte through a straw, hilarious as that may seem.)

Start Prevention Early

Science has proven that taste preferences are developed in the early years of life In order to limit “sweet tooth” tendencies during “taste training,” we kept foods as natural as possible in the first 3 years of Katelyn’s life. In addition to taste development, the bacteria in our mouths (oral flora) are also establishing themselves in these early years.  We did not share utensils, foods, or drinks with Katelyn when she was young to limit her exposure to the acid-loving-acid-producing decay-causing bacteria that could establish itself early in Katelyn’s mouth. These microscopic nasties are transferred by saliva. The earlier the decay-causing bacteria is permanently established, the higher the risks of dental decay for life.

Educate and Motivate – Help Children Make Good Lifestyle Choices

As a mom, I’ve also come to realize, that educating children to make the right choices is much more beneficial than setting rules (particularly, the “don’ts”) that they must follow. This applies to many aspects of growing up and learning including, treats and oral hygiene practices. 

When Katelyn came home with her first jelly beans (as a reward from her teacher for being good in class), the thoughts of “why can’t these be stickers?” and “if this kid gets a tooth decay from regular jelly beans rewarded in class, who is going to pay the dental fees?” crossed my mind. I was happy that Katelyn chose not to eat the jelly beans and brought them home just to “show and tell”. I was thankful that something from our many chats about nasty germs, 3 “S” foods and drinks, hurt teeth, actually stuck with her and made enough impact for her not to succumb to the exciting new world of jelly beans. Helping our children make good lifestyle choices from an early age, have lifelong benefits.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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