Your 14-month-old: Week 4

Your 14-month-old: Week 4

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Your toddler now

At the table

Your toddler is gaining new skills left and right – from waving bye-bye to drinking from a cup. But one thing she hasn't mastered is table manners – and that's okay. It's too early for her to eat neatly.

At 14 months, eating is a hands-on learning experience. So spread a splash mat or some newspapers under the highchair and watch the learning – and the mess – begin. Provide a spoon or "spork" (a combination spoon and fork) with a short, broad handle and a decent-size scoop, and let your toddler get the hang of it at her own pace.

I have 'mommy business cards,' which are basically calling cards with our contact information to give out at playdates and such. I make sure our son has one in his back pocket when we go out someplace crowded.

- Sharon

Bottle basics

Are you trying to get your toddler off the bottle? Doctors often tell parents to try to break the habit by age 1, but many (perhaps most) children drink from a bottle long after their first birthday.

The main problem with bottles is their link to tooth decay. To quote one of our experts, "If you've ever seen a picture of a child with bottle tooth decay, a.k.a. 'bottle rot,' you'll toss out every single one of your baby's bottles faster than you can say 'root canal'!"

Carrying a bottle around and sipping from it for hours – or going to sleep with a bottle – sets the stage for cavities. Either scenario gives the sugars in the milk, formula, or juice kids drink a chance to wreak havoc on their teeth.

If you're not ready to take away the bottle, keep your child's choppers in good shape by reserving milk, formula, and juice for meals and snack time, whether it's in a bottle or a cup. For the pre-bedtime bottle, milk is fine if it's followed by teeth cleaning (the last thing you want is milk sitting in your toddler's mouth all night).

If she likes to go to sleep with the bottle, you can allow a bottle of water. That way, she has the satisfaction of sucking if she wants it. You can transition to water if need be by gradually substituting water for milk: an ounce of water for an ounce of milk, then two ounces for two ounces of milk, and so on over a period of days or weeks.

If you decide the time is right for your child to give up the bottle completely, you can go cold turkey or take a more gradual approach. Cold turkey is faster but is likely to involve quite a few tears and possibly some sleepless nights. Doing it slowly might involve substituting a cup for, say, the lunchtime bottle and following that routine for a few days. Then substituting a cup for another regular bottle. And so on. The pre-bedtime bottles are usually the hardest to give up and the last to go.

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