Infants thrive on cuddles and close contact, but there are times when your little one’s breath smells awful.
Most of the time, the pungent smell of your baby’s breath is milk-related, but other more odious smells may hit you right in the face when you reach in to say hello to your little bundle of love. Infant bad breath is not par for the course with all babies.
In fact, bad breath is a rare occurrence and should be immediately addressed when detected.
There are a few obvious reasons why your little one may have suddenly developed bad breath, and every vigilant mom will jump into action to find out why.
Read on to learn more about how you can remedy your little one’s sudden bad breath episode.
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Reasons why babies develop bad breath
Most moms will be able to immediately pick up if their baby’s breath smells off as close cuddles are the glue to mother and child bonding.
Even if your little one hasn’t cut a tooth yet, bad breath is still an uncomfortable reality that moms have to deal with.
Here are some possible reasons why your cute cuddly baby may have developed bad breath:
If your baby drinks too much milk in one feeding, your baby will regurgitate it back up their esophagus, and you will pick up the smell of curdled or sour milk.
Freshly consumed milk mixed with stomach acids has a peculiar smell but is not really off-putting.
Babies who suffer from reflux do not necessarily have bad breath because the milk that comes up is still fresh, and normal bacteria require time to break down the milk.
Both breastmilk and formula contain sugar that forms part of your baby’s diet and is the leading culprit of bad breath.
Milk residue in your baby’s mouth promotes bacteria growth that produces foul-smelling gasses resulting in bad breath.
A mother’s diet influences the quality of her breastmilk, and a sugar-rich diet will transfer to her breastmilk.
Certain foods may also influence the normal taste of breastmilk, which could result in your baby being more gassy than usual, which will impact your baby’s breath.
3. Dry mouth
When babies have a stuffy blocked nose, they will breathe through their mouth, which dries out their mouth and creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
The bacteria thrives and releases bad-smelling gasses.
When the normal levels of bacteria in the mouth increase and actively begin breaking down milk residue around the gums, tongue, and back of the throat, bad breath will manifest.
Any toy you give your baby will go straight to your little one’s mouth and will soon be drenched in saliva, which contains bacteria.
The bacteria will cause the toys to smell bad, and when your baby puts the toy into their mouth again, the bad-smelling bacteria is transferred back into your baby’s mouth, giving rise to bad breath.
Left unchecked, these items will become the source of ongoing bad breath, leading to possible illness.
5. Illness and infections
Sinus infection is the most common cause of infant bad breath related to infections, whereas gum disease is less common.
The fluids from a sinus infection, rich in bacteria, clog up the nasal passage and drips into the back of the throat and tongue, which presents as bad breath.
Bacteria is a part of how our body functions, so the idea of getting rid of all bacteria will only result in health issues developing.
We need “good” bacteria to optimize our digestive system, but we need to ensure that our oral hygiene maintains the natural balance of bacteria in the body.
As a matter of interest, probiotics were developed to counter the effects of antibiotics which destroy the good bacteria we need to function normally.
6. Tooth decay
Tooth decay is also a primary cause of bad breath, but the overwhelming majority of newborns do not have teeth, and it will be a few months before the earliest sign of a tooth breaking through.
Tooth decay is more a toddler’s bad breath issue that is easily remedied with a visit to the dentist and proper oral hygiene going forward.
If your newborn cuts a tooth at about 3 months old and you notice bad breath or a stained first pearly white, it could be tooth decay and must be urgently addressed.
I’m sure most adults know how painful and irritating a toothache can be; now imagine your little one dealing with it.
A dentist must professionally deal with any issues with your baby’s teeth because your baby’s milk teeth are necessary to guide the permanent teeth into their correct alignment.
These common causes of bad breath can easily be remedied with greater attention to oral hygiene.
Simply cleaning your little one’s mouth with soft gauze after every feed will limit the amount of milk residue left behind, giving bacteria less opportunity to thrive and get out of control.
Treatment for baby’s bad breath
Most of the causes of infant bad breath mentioned above can literally be cleaned away without a fuss.
The big issue is bacteria that have been allowed to thrive and grow.
To regain control, you will need to do some serious spring cleaning and take care of your little one’s oral hygiene.
Here are a few tips:
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep while still feeding on a bottle. Not only does this pose a risk to your baby’s breathing, but milk dripping from the nipple will create a bacteria breeding ground.
- Use soft, damp medical gauze wrapped around your finger to clean your baby’s gums and teeth (if there are any). Get into the habit of doing this after every feed to prevent milk residue from sticking to the gums and sides of your baby’s cheeks. You can also try a small soft baby toothbrush to brush your baby’s tongue and gums. Consistent oral hygiene is imperative.
- Wash all your baby’s used toys, pacifiers, teething rings, plush toys, blankets, and burp cloths, even if they do not have milk spills on them. Everything that has gone into your baby’s mouth will have saliva, which breeds bacteria. Here again, get into the habit of rinsing or washing baby items regularly. Pacifiers are germ magnets and need to be washed and sterilized often.
- Check your diet and minimize foods with high sugar and starch content. Check this with formula and baby purities as well. When your little one is older than three months and can drink other liquid besides milk, limit fruit juices, and other sugary drinks. Refer to point 2 and clean your baby’s mouth after every feeding.
- Avoid sharing utensils with your little ones to avoid the transfer of bacteria.
Getting into the habit of cleaning your baby’s tongue, gums, and teeth after every feed sets the foundation for twice-daily teeth brushing later on.
But while your baby is still pretty much helpless, you need to ensure that your baby’s mouth remains clean.
What can I do about plaque build-up on my little one’s bottom teeth?
If your little one hasn’t yet visited a dentist, I strongly recommend it.
A visit to a dentist is essential to remove all the plaque, especially between the gum and teeth.
Your dentist will advise you on how best to take care of your little one’s teeth.
How do I clean the back of my baby’s tongue?
It can be challenging to clean the back of your baby’s tongue without causing some distress.
A piece of wet gauze or a small baby toothbrush will help, but you need to be slow, gentle, and deliberate.
Tongue scrapers can be used when your little one gets a bit older, and this must be done along with brushing the teeth and gums to reduce potential plaque build-up.
Regular oral hygiene practices will prevent bad breath most of the time, but sinus issues will require medication to clear up the infection.
Babies transfer all types of germs into their mouths with their hands and other things they chew on, and sugar is another concern.
This forms part of a baby’s diet, and sugar promotes bacteria growth which is at the heart of most infant bad breath cases. Regularly cleaning your little one’s mouth will help prevent nasty situations from springing up.
Some parents neglect oral hygiene in the first year of their baby’s life because they relate oral hygiene to teeth.
Yet, a baby’s gums and tongue also need to be cleaned regularly to prevent bad breath and more serious health issues from manifesting.
The key to controlling and eradicating infant bad breath is good oral hygiene which should become a daily habit.
Regular dentist visits are also essential because we cannot see what transpires between the gums and teeth in our little one’s mouth.