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Bedtime | 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.



Bedtime Battles and Shopping Strife with a Five Year Old

Reader Lea is kept busy by three little ones.  Her strong-willed middle child, age 5, can be a handful whether it’s out on a shopping trip with mummy or bedtime for him and his siblings.  Lea writes:

Hey Nanny Lili,

I have come across your blog at the perfect time, and I think it’s amazing at what you are doing.  I have a couple of concerns about my children.  I am a mother of 3.  A 6 year old, a 5 year old and a 9 month old.

Well, one of my issues is that my 5 year old boy refuses to sleep alone in his own bed, so he always sleeps with his big sister.  No matter what I try or do, it’s a tantrum and he goes right back.  He used to sleep in his own bed, but when I had to move back home with my mom, he was sharing a room with his sis and my mom. (Limited space.)  I have tried putting him in his own room and the baby with the big sister, but he just got right back up and into her bed.  In theory I don’t mind them being together (even if him being alone would be the best), but every night they are up till 10 to 11.  I have tried looking up on this issue and read through your blogs to try and find some answers or advice, but I seem to have hit a wall and am going nowhere fast.

Another issue I am having with him is tantrums in stores, and I don’t mean little ones – I mean the big outrageous, get on the floor, start hitting and screaming at the top of his lungs ones.  I tried to ignore him, telling him no, I don’t want this attitude and it’s going to get you nowhere if you continue, asked him to calm down and we will talk about it, but none of those is working as well as I’d wish it would.  It’s to the point where I try to find a baby sitter while I go shopping just to avoid those situations, or not go shopping until my mom gets home so she can keep an eye on them while I’m gone.

Any advice or strategies that could help out both situations would be greatly appreciated and well applied.


Hi Lea,

Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog.  I’m glad you found it!

As I understand from your email, your 5 year old son actually gets straight into bed with his big sister at bedtime, is this correct?  If this is the case, I would just continue putting him back in his own bed.  Ignore the crying and just keep putting him back if he gets up in the middle of the night whilst everybody is asleep.  There is not too much else you can do apart from returning him to his own bed every opportunity you get.

I think it is a good idea for the two of them not to be sleeping in the same room.  That way, at least he doesn’t disturb her.

As for the shopping, I would not avoid taking your little boy shopping just because he has a tantrum; there are no lessons to be learnt by this.  Find an excuse to go to the shop, even if just to pick up some apples, but take this opportunity (as you know you are not going to be gone long) to take him with you, either on his own or with the others.  If he starts to have a tantrum, continue to finish your little shop.  Give him one warning; then after that, if he continues, just walk away and leave him screaming.  I am sure he is waiting for a response from you.  Once he sees he is not getting one, the tantrums might not stop immediately, but I think they will probably start to be less of an issue.  Don’t worry about the other people in the shop; pretend it’s just you and your kids.  You could try preparing him before you go into the shop, explaining that there will be consequences for his bad behaviour. Do not, however, promise a reward for good behaviour.  If he is good, though, you should make a big deal of it and tell him how proud you are of him for being such a big boy.  Maybe you can give your two older ones some separate little jobs to do in the supermarket, to keep them busy.

Even though by the time you get home you are probably all friends again, make sure that if you have had to warn him with a punishment you follow it through.   If you say “time out when you get home”, then that is exactly what you do; if you say “no special treats for the rest of the day”, then that is what you do.

From what I can see, Lea, you have all had some big changes in your lives and it sometimes it takes kids a little longer to adapt – but they do.  However, this is a reason, not an excuse, for naughty behaviour.  You will have to be strong and just take control – you are Mummy and you are the boss!



Dry Eyes and Dry Mornings: More Adventures in Nighttime Potty Training

December 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Potty Training, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Claire writes to the Nanny Godmother of her daughter’s struggles to bid goodbye to the nighttime nappy:

My daughter is almost 3.  She has been dry during the day for over 6 months and has been using pull-up nappies at night.

She has started to refuse to wear her nappy at night even though it is soaked in the morning.  I have tried lifting her when I go to bed but she just screams at me; I have also tried restricting her fluid intake from 6pm in an effort to keep her dry at night.

Should I just let her wet the bed and see if she stops weeing at night or gets herself up to use the potty?  Is there anything else I can try?

Hi Claire,

Well, generally it is not recommended that you remove the nighttime nappy until the nappy is dry for a couple of nights in a row.  I would try to go through the nighttime potty training process with her, but I would start from the beginning, as it sounds like her bladder is not quite ready.  But we should definitely not discourage her; she sounds like a very independent little girl.

Before bedtime, if she starts to make a fuss about putting on a nappy, have a little chat with her.  Explain that because she is still having accidents in her bed it would be better for her to wear a pull-up, but try to make clear it is not a punishment.  Make sure she understands that if she needs to get up, she can call or come and get you at anytime.  It  might help if you put the potty next to her bed and make sure she can take her pyjamas down, and also that she can climb out of bed so she can do it by herself.  A night light will make it easier for her to see what she is doing.

Make sure that your daughter drinks enough fluid during the day so she is not thirsty before bedtime.   Taking her to the bathroom before she goes to bed will also help.

Even if she screams at you, I think you should continue trying to put her on the toilet so she gets into the habit of getting up.  She will get the hang of it.

Good luck; let me know how you’re getting on!



Say “Goodbye, Dummy”

You might call it a dummy, pacifier, soother or binky – but regardless of where you live, children the world over can get very attached to these little comfort objects.  When mummy and daddy decide it’s time for the dummy to go, they may find it’s easier said than done.  Several readers (including Alicia over at the Fan Page) have written asking for advice on getting rid of the dummy.

Here are a few methods and tips that I have found effective (depending on the particular child and age):

  1. Cold turkey (age 2-4 years).  This could result in a few days of tantrums and maybe a couple of sleepless nights, but if you can tough it out it shouldn’t take too long.
  2. Weaning (age 1-4 years).  Remove it during the day and just keep for bedtime.  If he still takes a nap, move on to removing it at naptime.  Then gradually phase it out of bedtime as he gets older.
  3. Cut the top off with a pair of scissors and give it back (age 1-4 years). I have found that many children don’t like the feel of it in their mouth and will just spit it out.
  4. “Send” it to the tooth fairy/Santa/Easter bunny or even to a new baby who needs it more (age 2½-4 years).  Then reward your child with a “big boy” toy for his generosity!

Once you’ve made the decision that it’s time to get rid of the dummy, one of the factors in deciding which approach to take is the age of your child.  For example, a child over 3 is old enough to understand that she is a big girl now and doesn’t need it anymore, and the cold turkey approach should be fine.  For a child under 3, a more gradual weaning approach is likely to work better – break down the time she uses it, trying it just at bedtime.  If she has a tantrum during the day demanding it, just distract her.

Be aware, though, that if you take the dummy away too early this may increase the risk that that they will develop a thumbsucking habit – and although it looks very cute, thumbsucking can be a real pain to stop, not to mention being unhygienic and bad for a child’s teeth.

The important thing to remember is that to a child, the dummy represents something comforting and consoling, not just an object that can spread germs and wreck teeth.  Whilst exercising any of these methods, bear in mind that goal is to teach your child to self-soothe without depending on the dummy.  If at any point you feel you are about to give up and go get a new one from the kitchen because you think it is easier, remember that in the long run it’s not.

Readers, know of any other tips or tricks that helped your child bid goodbye to the dummy?  Feel free to leave a comment below and share them!



Getting Baby’s Bedtime Back on Track

A recent family holiday set off a change in the bedtime behaviour of reader Helen’s 9 month old son – formerly a good sleeper – and getting him back on track is proving to be a challenge.  Helen writes:

I have a 9 month old boy who was good at going to bed and sleeping through (most of the time) until we went on holiday and he slept in a travel cot, which he hated and cried for hours each night the entire week we were away.

Now at home we are experiencing the same behaviour each evening and it is getting really difficult, as he is now waking our 22 month old daughter.

We are currently trying controlled crying, but he is crying for up to 2 hours and gets in such a state he’s made himself sick.  We go in and try to settle him, but the only way to calm him down is to pick him up and cuddle him, then when we put him back down and leave the room he’s screaming.

Please can you suggest any ideas?  Before controlled crying we tried holding him until he went to sleep, also tried to put him down awake but nothing works.

Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.

Hi Helen,

I can imagine this is very tiring for everyone.

I’m not sure how long you’ve been leaving your baby to cry uninterrupted, but bear in mind that the point of controlled crying isn’t really to leave them to cry for long periods of time – it’s to help your baby learn to self-soothe.  It doesn’t sound as though your little boy has a problem self-soothing, as you mentioned he used to go to bed quite well.  It’s also quite typical for children’s sleep patterns to change at this age, as they are more alert and mobile.  Also, around this age they can start to develop separation anxieties.

Leaving the baby to cry, as I’m sure you have experienced, just makes them become hot, anxious and overtired – and sometimes even results, as you mentioned, in vomiting.  Once this has happened, there is no hope of them settling.  Even if they do eventually fall asleep, it is usually broken naps.  Also, they may start to get distressed about bedtime approaching.

At night, Helen, when you put your baby to bed, try to make sure that he is really calm.  Perhaps give him a bath, or just sit in a low-lit bedroom talking very gently to him.  Then, when it is finally bedtime, just give him a kiss, tell him you love him, put him into his cot and walk out of the room.  Even if he is crying, just wait five minutes and then go back into the bedroom.  Keeping interaction to a minimum, soothe him for a moment by using a gentle but firm voice, say “It’s bedtime now, see you in the morning, love you” and walk out of the room again.  Repeat this two or three times, then increase it to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes, each time using the same procedure.  As the intervals get longer, try reducing the amount of interaction each time.

If you notice that there is a pause between his cries, wait a little longer, as he might be starting to fall asleep and by going in you could disturb him again.

This could take a couple of days or several weeks, but it should start getting easier.  In the meantime, it is going to take all your resources to stick to it – but if you do, I expect you will all get a better night’s sleep.  Feel free to check back in and let me know how you’re both coming along!



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!



Rest for the Weary: Getting Your Toddler to Go to Bed and Stay There

January 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Readers' Enquiries

A number of readers have told me of their struggles to ensure a good night’s sleep for their children and themselves.  Summer writes:

Hello Nanny Godmother!  I hope you can help me.  My two-year-old son has always been a terrible sleeper.  We bedshared from the age of 3 months to twenty months.  He was sleeping in his own bed for four months relatively ok – waking up once or twice a night.  Around Christmas time he began waking up all night and it is still happening.  We’ve moved him to a pallet on the floor next to my side of the bed.  He will only fall asleep if I hold his hands.  It seems that separation anxiety is in full swing which was never a problem before.  How can I make him fall asleep without all this new anxiety he is feeling?  If you can tell me how to get him to sleep all night you’d truly be my Nanny Godmother!

Tammy, whose almost two year old boy is having a related problem, writes:

My son was sleeping real well in his toddler bed for about 3 months and then all of a sudden he has started waking up each and every night around 12 or 1 a.m. and crawling into bed with me.  How do I get him to stay in his own bed?  For now we have to sleep in the same room.  Please help.

Ladies, most children go through this phase.  It’s normally just attention-seeking behaviour.  You need to nip it in the bud before it becomes a bad habit.  As soon as you hear your little boy get up, put him straight back to bed.  Try not to make too much of a fuss over him; just take his hand, say “Bedtime now, mummy’s right here.”  Give a kiss and get back into bed.  If you stick to this routine for the first couple of nights, then after that when he wakes just take his hand and put him back to bed; don’t say a word.  He just wants to know you are there.  Try to avoid anything before bedtime that could overstimulate him, e.g. TV, scary books or lots of noise.

It should only last a couple of weeks if you manage to stick to the routine.

Summer, as for the hand-holding problem, you could try the following technique.  First night, just sitting next to his bed until he falls asleep, but no touching; second night, sit with your back to him next to the bed; then as the nights go on, try to move farther and farther away from the bed until the point where you are sitting outside the bedroom door.  It might take a little while for him to get used to not holding your hand, but I am confident that if you stick to this method you’ll get some sleep.

Good luck, mums, sleep well!