This week’s #AskSarah is from Jillie in Wiltshire, mum to one-year-old Lily. Jillie’s #AskSarah question is; “We can’t get Lily to brush her teeth. We’ve tried a special toothbrush, princess bubble-gum flavoured toothpaste, getting her to watch us brush ours, trying to get to copy, trying to make it into a game, trying to get her to brush ours, singing….everything! But she won’t do it, just closes her mouth tightly and turns away. Any top mummy tips? Thank you so much.”
How lucky is lovely Lily have parents who are trying so hard and in so many creative ways to get her brush those tiny gnashers. I think the key to this situation is to STOP trying.
Here’s why – not brushing her teeth has almost become a fun game. She gets heaps of attention, things to play with and new experiences. From her perspective it makes sense to keep her mouth shut.
So why not try doing the opposite?
1. Play it cool
Put aside your expectations. At this age it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t brush her teeth every day. Just add in as part of your daily routine for getting ready or going to bed, like brushing your hair or putting a vest on. And if she doesn’t do it on the first two goes, don’t worry about it. Don’t react at all, just carry on getting ready.
And if she does brush her teeth (inside you can leap for joy) but in front of your Little One keep calm and resist the urge to make it into a big deal. Just give her a smile and a pleasant ‘Well done’ and carry on as normal. Don’t phone daddy to tell him the good news or whip out your smartphone to mark the event.
2. No more inducements
Lily is obviously a clever little lady and she’s got the upper hand at the moment. Brushing your teeth is just normal and it’s just one of those things everybody does. So try keeping it simple, just a little toothbrush and age 0-2 toothpaste is all your need. She’ll soon cotton on there’s going to be no more rewards for not brushing her teeth.
3. No more singing and dancing
When you’re doing your daily toilette make her part of it but leave her to her own devices. Smear a little toothpaste onto her brush and leave it casually within her reach on the side of the sink, or pop it into her hand. Then get on with brushing your own teeth, washing your face and brushing your hair. If she picks it up just let her get on with it in her own way – she won’t make a thorough job of it but it’ll be step in the right direction.
4. Mum’s the word
Don’t talk about brushing teeth around her, whether she’s done it or not. Minimum fuss stops this issue becoming a battlefield later on. It’s completely natural you want her to brush her teeth, because it’s what is best for her and you are fantastic parents that you’ve tried so hard and care so much.
Your Little One can benefit from having a little bit of responsibility here as she makes the journey from baby to toddler. If you are worried about the effect not brushing her teeth is having on her teeth and gums then you can minimise it by looking at her diet and checking she’s not having sugary and sugar-free foods and drinks as they are acidic for the teeth.
It is recommended as soon as teeth appear that you brush them twice a day with a little smear of baby toothpaste but while she adjusts to her new routine you can afford to take your time with a simple, relaxed low-maintenance approach to baby tooth care.
It may not happen overnight but with such great parents, Lily with get there in her own time. I know you’ll both be jumping up and down when she starts to do it, but just this once, wait till she’s out of the room.
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Over four decades as a nurse and a health visitor Sarah Beeson’s career has been shaped by the needs of children. Since her earliest days on the wards of Hackney Hospital she has stood up for her patients as shown in The New Arrival her heartwarming true story of training to be a nurse in 1970s London.
Her expertise and innovation have been recognised with the MBE from the Queen for services to children and families, and her health prevention work received the Queen’s Nursing Institute Award but she’s happiest listening to mums talking about their baby.
Sarah firmly believes that this generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Her new parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is the culmination of a life time’s experience watching, listening and being part of thousands of families’ journeys from birth to their Little One’s first birthday and will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2015.
Sarah second memoir about being a newly qualified health visiting in rural Kent in 1970s She’s Arrived! will be published by HarperCollins in March 2016.