Toddlers : Health & Daily Care
Updated: Nov 27, 2020
General health checks
By the time your baby turns 1 year old, you have gotten well and truly familiar with having regular visits with your healthcare professional. Now that your little one is a ‘Toddler’ your general health checks (or well child visits) become a little bit more spread out, about one visit every 6 months being considered normal.
At each of these checkups, your doctor will continue to monitor your baby’s growth, physical and emotional development, feeding, sleeping and physical awareness; as well as perform tests to determine their eyesight, hearing, heart and lungs are all within healthy ranges for his or her age. As your child gets older, your doctor will discuss with you, in more detail, nutrition, dental care, crawling, walking and mobility. He or she will also talk to you about your child’s emotions and intellect as they develop, and how you can help them to do so.
Immunisation and vaccinations
Once you have made a decision about your child’s immunisation, your doctor will advise you on what you need to do to ensure your child is up to date with their immunisation as outlined in the national immunisation program (NIP).
Now that you are rounding the 12-month milestone of being a parent, you are probably feeling like you have the everyday healthcare of your little one under control. You know how to handle the more common of health problems, such as coughs, fevers, colds, and vomiting; and know the warning signs for more serious issues are to look for.
Around this age your child will most likely start to suffer ‘minor injuries’, such as cuts, scrapes and bruises, a lot more. Learning basic first aid and CPR can be an invaluable source of confidence when dealing with these kinds of minor emergencies. You should not hesitate to contact your health professional if you aren’t sure what to do in any situation or are worried.
Signs of serious illness and conditions
Sometimes it is hard to know when your child’s illness is a serious issue, or if it is a common and minor condition. You should call your doctor, or healthcare professional straight away if your child exhibits any of the following:
Your child has a high temperature or fever of over 38°C.
Your child has a fit, or convulsion.
Your child vomits green fluid.
Your child has a lump in the groin area, or hernia.
Your child has an apneic episode (stops breathing for more than 15 seconds).
There are also other signs that can indicate serious illness, if your child’s behaviour indicates more than one of the following you should seek medical advice immediately:
Excessive drowsiness (Less alert than usual, less aware of surroundings than usual).
Decreased activity (considerably less active, less interested in activities).
Breathing difficulty (coughing, short shallow breath, laboured breathing).
Poor circulation (baby is pale, hands and feet might be cold to touch).
Feeding less (around half their normal intake).
Less urinary output (less than 4 in 24-hour period).
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if you are worried about your child. Your doctor is there to diagnose and treat any illnesses you and your little one might have, but they are also there to answer your questions and reassure you. Most healthcare professionals understand the anxiousness that comes with being unsure as a parent and will be happy to see you to ease your concern.
Daily Care : Nappies
By the time, your baby is 12 months old, you will have changed on average 3600 nappies! Wow. Whether you use disposable or reusable nappies, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Disposable nappies come in a variety of sizes and styles, and by now you have probably worked out which are the best ones for you. You can continue to use whichever brand you find the best and upgrade your sizes as your baby grows. Disposable nappies also come in ‘pull up’ styles that are helpful when toilet training.
Reusable, or cloth, nappies come in many different styles, types, colours and can be made from a variety of materials. If you have chosen to use reusable nappies, the best part about them is that you can continue to use the ones you have! You might find that you need to buy different sized liners and outer wraps for them as baby grows, but most cloth, or reusable, nappies are one size suits all. You can also find reusable nappies in a ‘pull up’ style that are helpful when toilet training.
Remember there is no ‘wrong’ answer to which type of nappy you should use. Whichever style you find is best for you and your family is fine and you are not locked in to not ever try a different product. You might use cloth nappies at home but take disposables out with you, or use disposable nappies when baby is first born but try out reusable when he or she is a little older and you feel more confident.
It is common for children to start toilet training around 2-3 years, but some children can be showing signs of being ready from as early as 18 months. There are many techniques for toilet training and each child may respond better to a particular one. Both disposable and reusable nappies come in ‘pull up’ styles that can be helpful during the transition process. Your healthcare professional can talk to you about toilet training techniques.
Nappy rash is a common skin irritation in babies. It is caused by the skin being in prolonged contact with the moisture from a soiled nappy, rubbing or chafing from the nappy itself, or (rarely) could be a result of allergic dermatitis.
Nappy rash is easily treatable by changing baby’s nappy frequently and when required. Make sure that when you change your baby’s nappy you are also cleaning their genital area thoroughly.
Children can also suffer a type of ‘nappy rash’ when they transition into wearing underwear. Make sure your child is cleaning their genital area thoroughly after using the toilet, and if they have any accidents change their pants straight away. Not wiping properly and spending time in wet underwear can also cause conditions like thrush and urea rash.
Let your baby spend time with no nappy on, as fresh air and a controlled amount of sunlight is beneficial to clearing up skin irritations. Nappy rash ointment and creams are also very readily available from stores and are highly effective.
The best thing to do generally is to continue dressing your toddler in layers, the same amount as you would wear to keep warm/cool in weather plus one layer for warmth. Dressing in layers also makes it easy to both add and remove layers as the temperature rises or lowers unexpectedly.
The best kinds of clothing for toddlers are easy and comfortable for them to move around in and are not constricting. They should be loose, elastic waisted pants and skirts, clothes with Velcro or large buttons and buttonholes, and clothes with logos and pictures with easy to define fronts and backs, as they start to learn to dress themselves.
Dressing for bed
When it comes to dressing your toddler for sleep, you should use much the same rule of thumb as you would for dressing during the day; dress them in the same amount of clothes you would wear, plus one layer for warmth. Make sure they will be warm enough throughout the night if they roll out of the blankets, because now that they are getting older and more mobile, they surely will.
Dressing your child in an ‘infant sleeping bag’ is a great way to keep them warm in bed. Infant sleeping bags that have fitted necks and armholes help keep your toddler’s head and face uncovered while allowing him or her some room to move their legs. They also stop their legs and feet from getting caught in the cot railings. It is recommended to dress your child in traditional type pyjamas rather than an infant sleeping bag when your child starts to sleep in a ‘big bed’ (usually between the ages of 1 ½ to 2 ½).
Tips for dressing your toddler
Now that your child is moving around more freely, they can help (or greatly hinder) the dressing process. Now that your toddler can sit up, you can dress them in a seated position, which will make it easier to pull things over their head. Involving your child as you dress them will make them more eager to learn to dress themselves.
Cleaning your child’s face and head
It remains important to keep your toddler’s face and head clean throughout the day, especially as we branch out further in the world of food. You will find that your child isn’t always as intent on getting the food in the mouth as he or she is playing with it.
You can clean your child’s face with clean washers and water, or use convenient ‘wet wipes’ throughout the day, and clean more thoroughly when your toddler has a bath.
Caring for your child’s genitals
Keeping your toddler’s genitals clean and fresh is particularly important to their general hygiene. Not thoroughly cleaning your toddler when changing nappies and bathing can lead to illness and serious skin irritations.
If your child is a girl, make sure you clean her vagina from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from her bottom to her genitals. Always use a fresh wipe for each part of her genitals you clean. As she learns to go to the toilet herself, make sure to teach her to also always wipe herself thoroughly . In the bath you can use a washcloth and clean her genitals as part of your routine, still taking care to wipe from front to back, and teaching her to do the same. If you are worried or concerned about her, you should call your doctor.
Boys genitals also require thorough cleaning. Use baby wipes, to clean around his penis and scrotum, taking care to not spread bacteria from his bottom to his genitals. As he learns to go to the toilet himself, teach him to always wipe from front to back, and thoroughly. You can clean his penis as part of his regular bath. If uncircumcised, his foreskin will remain attached to the head of his penis and will separate itself by around age 2 and requires no extra help to. If your son has been circumcised, you can also continue to clean his penis as part of his regular bath. If you are worried or concerned about your baby, you should call your doctor.
Preparing the bath
You should be bathing your toddler in your family bath. A bath can be made fun by adding toys and games, and bath time can quickly become playtime. Encouraging your child to play and be comfortable in the water helps to make bath time seem fun and less of a chore as they grow. You might even like to get in the bath with them. You can also encourage your child to enjoy having a shower as they grow and become steady on their feet.
Giving the bath
When it comes to giving your toddler a bath, remember that you need to start at the top and work your way down your child’s body. After they have undressed, lower them gently into the water by their feet first. Take a clean washer and wipe their eyes, ears, and face. You can wet your child’s hair, but he or she will only need it ‘shampooed’ once or twice a week. Make sure you use a specialty children’s shampoo. Move down the body to clean their arms, hands, legs, and feet. You should always clean your child’s genitals last, so as not to spread any bacteria to other parts of the body. Talk your child through the process of the bath as you do it and encourage them to help clean themselves.
Some kids will really enjoy the bath and will want to stay and play in it after you are finished washing, but it is important to remember that they can still get cold very quickly and not to stay in the water too long.
Don’t ever leave your child alone in the bath. Children can drown in very shallow water and in only a few seconds.
When to bath
You can bathe your toddler up to once a day, but while he or she is still little it is not considered necessary to do so, if you are keeping him or her clean. As your child starts to get older (and invariably messier!) you will want to make bath time a daily occurrence. Some parents who have children that really enjoy baths might be tempted to bathe more often, but this can lead to them having dry skin. You can make bath time any time during the day, whether you prefer to do so in the morning, throughout the day or as part of a calming night routine is entirely up to you.
What if my toddler doesn’t like baths?
If your toddler really doesn’t like baths, you can try using a few different techniques to work up their tolerance to bath time. Try making it an interactive experience. Singing, playing, and splashing in the bath can help your child to feel more relaxed and enjoy it more. Lots of parents make it a group activity, by taking their child in the shower with themselves or hopping in the bath too. The earlier that your child comes to like bath time the easier it will make your life as they grow.
You might find that as your child gets a little older, he or she becomes less co-operative with your attempts to trim their little fingernails. It is best to get someone to help you by holding your toddler and calming or distracting them while you use specialty baby nail clippers or use nail scissors to trim them down. Another technique is to cut their nails while they sleep, eat, or are in some other way distracted.
Trimming your child’s nails regularly will help stop him or her from scratching both themself, and you with these tiny weapons, although as your little one is spending more time exploring the world, you might find that their nails are being worn down naturally.
At birth, babies have a full set of primary, or ‘baby’ teeth in their gums, which will grow upwards and ‘erupt’ through the gums. This usually occurs slowly over several weeks or months, generally starting at around 6 – 10 months, although some children won’t start to erupt until 12 months of age. Most babies will have a full set of primary teeth by age 3.
Some children start to experience teething from as young as 3 months, but there is no right or wrong time for baby to have their first ‘eruption’ and some might not experience teething until well into toddler-dom. If your child does not have any teeth by the time, they are 15-17 months old, see your dentist.
While not all children have bad teething experiences, it is generally considered a normal for them to struggle with it and feel some discomfort. Drooling, swelling of the gums, becoming more irritable or fussy, refusing food, having difficulty sleeping and being more prone to biting are all common behavioural traits for teething children.
Tooth and Gum care
Encouraging healthy dental habits from a very young age will help when your child is old enough to brush their teeth themselves. You can get your young child used to having a foreign item in their mouth by wetting a clean washer and running it gently over their gums, tongue, and roof of mouth.
When your child’s teeth start to erupt, you can continue to use a clean washer, or start using a soft infant toothbrush with water only to clean their teeth twice a day. Most dentist’s do not recommend using toothpaste as it contains fluoride which can be harmful to babies and small children. When you do start to use a toothpaste, make sure it is a specialised children’s toothpaste (these do not contain fluoride).
Singing a special ‘teeth-brushing’ song or having a special routine with dental care can help to make the experience fun for your toddler. Setting your child up with good oral hygiene from a young age will benefit them greatly in the future.
Early tooth decay prevention
Now that your child has started to develop teeth, and is eating solid food, it is important to remember that diet can immensely influence tooth decay. To avoid any early tooth decay, avoid giving your child anything sweet, including juice in a bottle, or covering a dummy in honey, as the sugar is bad for tooth and gum development.
Do not fill a bottle with sugary drinks, like juice or soft drink. Do not give your child a bottle as a pacifier or let them keep a bottle in bed with them. Be careful when sharing food with your children and try not to share eating utensils. Your own mouth is full of bacteria that can be spread to their teeth and gums.
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