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Eating | The Nanny Godmother

Helping a Toddler Break the Midnight Milk Habit

August 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Eating, Readers' Enquiries

The Nanny Godmother was delighted to hear again recently from reader Michelle, who writes:

Hi Nanny Godmother,

It’s me again. I have another question. My son is 3 years old and still has a nighttime bottle when he gets into bed. I’ve tried weaning him off it by reducing the amount by 10ml every night but when we get about halfway (125ml) he starts asking for water when the milk is finished and carries on until I give him a little water (10ml). How do I wean him off the nighttime bottle? Or am I being too hasty?

Another question, going to bed is simple, he gets in and stays in and falls asleep, but most nights he still wakes up anything from once a night to countless times, and each time he wants some milk. I think the once or twice a night is purely out of habit. Generally when he wakes up more, something is bugging him. How do I get him to stop the nighttime wakings? The only time I have a good night’s sleep is when he is with his granny. I feel like I’m undergoing sleep deprivation torture. Please help.



Hi Michelle,  welcome back!

It really does sound like he’s gotten into a bad habit. I don’t think you’re being hasty at all.  It’s not advisable for children, certainly of this age, to go to bed with a bottle.  It’s bad for their teeth and can even contribute to ear infections, among other problems.

To start with, let’s work on the bedtime bottle.  Try to make sure your son has a drink before he goes to bed so you are sure he is not thirsty.  I suspect he likes the comfort of the bottle, so what you could try doing is give him a sippy cup with just water in it.  If he still makes a fuss about the milk, give a mixture of equal parts milk and water, gradually add more water than milk until he is just drinking water.  I cover the dilution strategy and a couple of other ideas here.

You say that if your little boy wakes, something is bugging him; if it is something that occurs often then try to remove or avoid that happening if you can identify what it is.  Rather trying to wean him off the milk he asks for when he wakes in the middle of the night, I would suggest that you simply put your foot down and say no.  You could try the water in the sippy cup, and simply just go in and tell him he can’t have any more milk until the morning but that he can have water.  Keep the same sippy cup next to his bed, so he can help himself.  This will minimize fuss and disruption for both of you in the night.

I know this sounds like a pain at 4 o’clock in the morning, but I’m confident that once he learns that there is no benefit to asking for milk each time he wakes up, the habit will lessen.

Does he sleep through the night when he goes to granny’s house?

I wish you luck, Michelle, and sleep tight.



My Fussy Little Eater

July 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Eating, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Elizabeth is going through a time-honoured ritual of child rearing: dealing with a toddler who is a very fussy eater. She writes:

My son is almost 2 years old. I think my method of feeding is wrong. He gives me a lot of trouble. I cook all the foods I know he should eat, but he isn’t eating well; he just eats a little bit and runs off. I am worried and it’s frustrating the life out of me.

Hi Elizabeth,

This is an issue that I know many of my readers will be able to relate to.

First of all, don’t worry (unless you notice he’s not gaining any weight, seems lethargic or exceptionally cranky, in which case bring it to your paediatrician’s attention).  Your son will eat when he is hungry. Try not to negotiate, beg or plead. If he starts making a fuss, just take the plate away without shouting or stressing. Don’t waste the food; give it to him at the next meal.

If you are really worried, you can offer him a healthy dessert, but nothing fun – maybe a compote or a piece of fruit, but that’s it. Don’t give him two compotes just because he’s now decided he is hungry. If he tries this little trick, you can keep the plate on the side and re-present it saying “If you’re still hungry, you can eat this.” If the reply is “no”, then remove him from the table promptly. Try not to compensate for the lack of eating at the table with snacks throughout the day, or else it is just going to end up being a vicious circle.

Try chopping up small pieces of vegetables (cooked or raw), put them just in front of him and let him pick at them with his hands. Kids love this because it is fun and messy.

Also, try to make sure your son is not consuming too much fluid before mealtimes, as this will affect his appetite.

Elizabeth, at the age of 2 they are starting to become little people, and to me this sounds like the beginning of many power struggles you have ahead of you. Be strong and assertive!

If there are any other mums/caregivers out there who would like to share their tips with Elizabeth, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for writing!



Dealing With a Nonstop Nibbler

February 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Eating, Readers' Enquiries

Mandy H. writes:

My beautiful little girl is almost 18 months and from the moment I weaned her from breastfeeding to food she has eaten everything I put in front of her.  Most of my “Mummy” friends say “Ah, she just has a good appetite” or “I wish my toddler would eat like that,” but in truth I am so worried. She is quite short for her age (compared to her peers as the health visitors no longer measure toddler height) and her weight is on the 91st percentile, so she is starting to get quite chubby.  I only feed her healthy snacks and give her 3 meals a day which are all healthy, well-balanced meals.

Anyway, if I go into the kitchen she will stand at the door and scream for food.  If she comes in the kitchen with me she will open the cupboard and try to help herself. If she is in the room with any other person eating, she will go up and point and scream for food.  I am at my wit’s end.  I have been to the doctor’s and they are sending us to a dietitian but I think it is more of a behavioural issue, please help.


While you should pay attention to the dietitian’s recommendations, I wouldn’t worry about this problem too much; it is easily corrected.

There are several reasons why children overeat.  Sometimes it’s because they are seeking attention, other times it can just be a bad habit, but generally it’s not because they are hungry.  If your little girl is having three square meals a day there is no reason she should be “grazing” too.

Depending on what time she has her breakfast, there is a good chance that around 10:00 – 10:30 she could be a little hungry, so you could give her a little bit of orange juice just to keep her going.  Try to make a routine of this so she knows that she will be getting something mid-morning.  Then try to distract her and give her some little activities to do, because children will also want to eat if they are bored, just like us!

Give your daughter her lunch around 12 – 12:15.  I am assuming she has an afternoon nap, so automatically when she wakes up have a snack ready for her (fruit, yogurt, milk or even a biscuit) – but you decide when she has had enough.  Then off for more play time.  When you are out walking, try to have her walk as much as possible holding your hand.  Exercise is good but also builds up an appetite, so carry some raisins or other dried fruit around with you.  Make sure that during and between meals there is also water available, as sometimes children confuse hunger with thirst.

You can empty a drawer in the kitchen to put some toys in so she has her own space next to you when you are preparing meals.  This will distract and entertain her, which hopefully will give you more time to do what you need to do.

I would try to avoid making an issue with her over the food, as it’s easier to manage a child with a great appetite than a child with none.



Weaning a Toddler Off the Nighttime Bottle

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Eating, Readers' Enquiries

When your child has reached the point where he or she no longer needs a bottle but is still attached to it as a comfort item (particularly at bedtime), you may be in for a struggle, as reader Kayley B. has found out.  She writes:

Hi, my 3 year old daughter still wants a bottle in bed and gets up in the night for another one, she won’t sleep without one and when I tell her she is not having another in the night she screams until she gets another.  Please, anything I can do?


There are a couple of techniques you could try.  First, you could dilute the milk with water.  Start on the first night adding a little bit of water, then over time add more and more water.  You could also give it to to her cold if you normally give it warm.  As a last resort, you could try soya milk.

Take your daughter shopping to choose her own sippy cup and maybe put that in the corner of her bed or somewhere she can reach it, just in case she wakes up thirsty.  Let me know how it goes for the two of you!