AN EXPERT GUIDE TO TODDLER DEVELOPMENT FOR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
Healthcare Professionals are vital in helping parents with toddlers (1-3 years) move from bottles to beakers and also promoting good dental hygiene.
- Introducing a beaker is an important stage. Support parents to understand why it is developmentally important as well as necessary for their toddler’s good dental health and hygiene.
- Timing is important. Most babies should start moving from a bottle to a beaker at about 11 months, and ideally be completely weaned to a beaker by their first birthday.
- Use the move from bottle to beaker to encourage good dental habits. Weaning is a good time to reinforce the principles of good dental hygiene. Ensure that parents understand why and how their toddler’s teeth should be properly brushed.
ADVANTAGES OF MOVING TO A LIDLESS BEAKER FROM A BOTTLE
- Promotes good dental hygiene. Teats and spouts increase the contact between fluids and the surface of the teeth, possibly contributing to the development of tooth decay1,2. To help promote good dental health, a beaker should be introduced once an infant is developmentally able.
- Improves fine motor skills. Drinking from a lidless beaker encourages good hand-eye coordination and teaches toddlers how to appropriately grasp and set down items2.
- Encourages speech development. Children should learn to sip, not suck, drinks from as early an age as possible3. In doing so, they develop muscles important for talking. In addition, if a toddler excessively keeps a teat or spout in their mouth, opportunities to speak are negatively impacted2.
- Improves oral intake. A toddler can easily carry around bottles and lidded cups, which can result in excessive liquid intake4. This can negatively affect appetite and nutrient intake. The use of a beaker without a lid helps ensure both parents and toddlers are more aware of the volume of fluid being consumed.
TIMING IS CRUCIAL
Infants are developmentally able for a beaker from approximately six months of age5. Most parents should be encouraged to start weaning from bottles from about 11 months. An infant will ideally be completely weaned off their bottle by 12 months. If not, parents should begin that process as soon as possible.
QUICK TIP FOR PARENTS
The ideal drinking vessel4,5 for a toddler learning to drink from a rim is a beaker that is lidless, plastic, has two handles and a slanted edge.
HOW TO INTRODUCE A LIDLESS BEAKER
If a parent is reluctant to introduce a lidless beaker from the outset, a lidded beaker with a free-flow spout can be suggested as a short-term interim measure (for no more than a couple of weeks). This helps a toddler adjust to liquid that flows more freely. Once they are confidently drinking from a free-flow spout, a lidless beaker with a small amount of liquid should be introduced (under parental supervision). Parents should introduce the lidless beaker4:
- At least 30 minutes before their toddler’s next meal.
- When they have plenty of time to deal with any spills.
- When they have their own cup of water to demonstrate the skill of drinking from a rim.
Like any skill, drinking from a rim will take practice, so parents should remain positive and model correct drinking behaviour to help their toddler to progress to a cup. Toddlers will mimic behaviours they see around them, so parents and any other siblings should be encouraged to drink from cups at mealtimes to set a good example.
TODDLERS AND GOOD DENTAL HYGIENE
As soon as an infant’s first teeth erupt5, tooth brushing should begin. Teeth should be brushed in the morning and, more importantly, again last thing at night. A toddler’s teeth should be brushed at a time when both parent and toddler are relaxed. Since toddlers lack the dexterity to brush properly, parents must always assist with tooth brushing. Any interest a toddler shows in brushing their own teeth should be encouraged, but it’s still important that parents supervise and help to brush any areas their toddler may have missed.
QUICK TIP FOR PARENTS
Make tooth-brushing both routine and fun. When you have brushed your toddler’s teeth at night, water should ideally be the only fluid provided until the following morning.
A parent can safely brush their toddler’s teeth whilst they are face-to-face or standing or sitting behind them7. As such, a toddler’s teeth can be brushed while they are sitting:
- Upright on their parent’s knee.
- In a high chair.
- On a changing mat.
RECOMMENDED TOOTH-BRUSHING PRACTICE6: A GUIDE FOR PARENTS
- With one hand, hold a toddler’s lip away from their teeth.
- With the other hand, brush teeth using small circular motions.
- Always assist with brushing back teeth.
- Brush for the length of a favourite song: two to three minutes.
- Teach toddlers over two years of age to avoid swallowing toothpaste.
- Encourage toddlers to spit, but not rinse, toothpaste out of their mouth. Excessive rinsing after brushing removes the benefits of fluoride.
- Never allow a toddler to run with a toothbrush in their mouth, due to the risk of injury should they fall.
TODDLERS AND TOOTHPASTE
Toothpaste used will vary depending on age6:
- Under age two. Do not use toothpaste, use only water and a brush.
- Between two and three. Due to its lower fluoride content, a smear of toddler-specific toothpaste is recommended.
- Over age three. Use a pea-sized amount of standard fluoride toothpaste.
QUICK TIP FOR PARENTS
A toddler’s toothbrush6 should be small, with soft bristles and should be replaced every three months.
Suitable articles for parents on this topic are available at www.toddlebox.ie/behaviourShow References