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Your toddler now
Introducing the dentist
Time to add a new appointment to your child's schedule: a first visit to the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend that you establish a "dental home" for your child around this age. They point out that about 40 percent of children have tooth decay by age 5, and that the rate of tooth decay in baby teeth has not declined as it has in permanent teeth over the last 30 years.
This first visit offers a baseline look at your child's mouth and reveals any problems that your child's doctor may have missed. It also gives the dentist an opportunity to offer pointers on caring for your toddler's budding teeth, preventing cavities, and ensuring the right intake of fluoride. You can stick with your own dentist or choose a pediatric dentist – a specialist with a child-friendly office who's an ace at keeping young children comfortable and relaxed.
At home, continue brushing your toddler's teeth. Use a small, soft toothbrush and a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste or a dot the size of a grain of rice. (To distract your child while you do the job, try giving her a toothbrush to hold.)
I buy children's books for my son and include a sentimental note inside the cover related to the book's subject. Not only will it be a special keepsake for him one day, but it also builds up his library.
Milk on the menu
Cow's milk is probably becoming a big part of your child's diet now that she's passed the 12-month mark.
Whole milk is usually the beverage of choice at this age because toddlers need fat to fuel their growth and their considerable energy needs. (Possible exceptions: If you're overweight or obese, or have a family history of obesity, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease, your child's doctor may recommend starting with reduced-fat milk.)
At 24 months, your little one can safely switch to low-fat or even nonfat milk.
When consumed in moderate amounts, cow's milk has many nutrients a growing toddler needs. Nutritionists recommend that 1-year-olds drink at least 16 ounces of milk a day – but not more than 24 ounces.
Some kids love their milk and the challenge for parents is not to go overboard. A child who drinks more than 24 ounces may fill up on milk and miss out on other foods that are important for a balanced diet.
At the other extreme are toddlers who turn up their nose at cow's milk, at least at first. After all, it has a different texture, taste, and even temperature than breast milk or formula. Parents of reluctant milk-drinkers can try mixing whole milk with some breast milk or formula at first (say, one part whole milk and three parts of his usual stuff). Then slowly increase the amount of milk to 100 percent.
Find out more about introducing cow's milk and what your options are if your child can't or won't drink milk, or if you'd prefer to give her other calcium-rich beverages, such as fortified soy milk.
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