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Toddlers | 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.



Crafty Kids and their ABCs

February 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Development, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Genya writes:

I was wondering why my 3.5 years old daughter doesn’t like to color and learn letters.

What and how should I do to encourage?

Hi Genya,

I really don’t think you have anything to worry about.  Some children are simply not interested in colouring; I think they find it a little boring and pointless.  There are many other creative activities that you can use to stimulate motor skills, such as play dough and painting. Cutting and gluing is also fun for the little ones (although a little messy for you!).

You could incorporate the gluing and cutting with letters.  Why don’t you draw the letters, then give your daughter a pair of kid’s scissors and help her cut them out and stick them to make a colourful collage?  Maybe find some magazines with pictures to cut out that go with each letter.  I think she might be quite proud of her handiwork.

You could also use the alphabet fridge magnets and bath toys to encourage her along with the alphabet.

All children develop at different stages in different areas, in my experience.  For example, some kids may take an early interest in arts and crafts and ABCs but struggle at first with speech and numbers.  Keep encouraging your daughter’s individual interests, and she is very likely to develop the necessary skills before you know it.

I’m sure that other Nanny Godmother readers have some terrific ideas for creative activities with crafts or ABCs that have worked for their own children.  Readers, let’s hear them!



Beware the Potty Training “Fast Lane”

January 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Potty Training, Readers' Enquiries

Tanya writes:

I was looking for some advice.

I have started training my 2 year old daughter 3 days ago following an ebook a friend sent me about toilet training your child in 3 days.  Well, it hasn’t worked and my daughter has become terrified of the potty.  She has learnt when she needs to wee, we now recognize the cues, but if we try taking her up to the potty she screams and cries.  We will take her out and a couple of minutes later she will pee in her underwear.  I am at a loss as to what to do.  I don’t want to stop now that I have started.  We are being positive, trying not to use any negative words and rewarding her if she does get any pee in the potty.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Hi Tanya,

Thank you so much for writing.

I am sceptical on one trying to potty train a child in 3 days.  There is way more to potty training than just what can be achieved in a weekend.  However, to be honest, I have never tried this method although I am aware that many do.  The shortest time I have managed is 3 weeks, and that is with years of practice.  All children have different temperaments, so I think it is very hard to put them all in the same basket.  Trying to potty train a child in 3 days more often than not involves a lot of negative reinforcement from the parent and strict discipline from both parties, which to me sounds more stressful than potty training already is.

However, it sounds as though you have already made a little bit of progress; if your daughter now knows when she needs to go, and you know when she needs to go, then you’re halfway there.  Now you just need to get her to become comfortable using the potty/toilet.  I suggest that everybody take a deep breath and relax.

Try to guide her to the toilet instead of pushing her.  If you have the time, spend a couple of days in the house just concentrating on the potty.  If she has accidents in the first few days, don’t worry about it.  She will get there in the end.  I have posted several articles on potty training which give a few different techniques (see the “Potty Training” category), so maybe you could have a read through and see if there is one that suits you and your daughter.  Good luck, and don’t forget to let us know how it goes!



Naughty Words Are a No-No at Daycare

The Nanny Godmother loves to hear from colleagues in the childcare profession who are readers of the blog.  Patty has recently written in with a dilemma that’s particularly challenging because of the professional setting in which it’s occurring:

I am a daycare provider for a set of 21 month old twin boys in addition to 4 other children. Within the past month they both started using foul language. I simply ignored it the first week, although some of the older children were quick to point it out to me each time they heard it.  During the second week when it occurred, I got down at their level and firmly said “No. We don’t use that word. That is not ok.”  The third week, I repeated the steps from week 2, but then put them in time out. They don’t seem to be fazed by it at all and they seem to be swearing more each day.  Mom is really no help and simply blames it on Dad.

Any suggestions that I can use as a licensed provider? (When this occurred with my own children, step three included a swat on the rear end which put a pretty quick end to foul language, but as a licensed provider I am not able to use corporal punishment.)  Thank you!

Hi Patty,

Unfortunately, as you know, we childcare professionals are limited in what we can do if we don’t have the support of the parents.

However, I do think you should talk to the mum again and explain what a big problem it is, and that you don’t want other parents to start complaining.

As long as you’re not receiving parental support, your options are going to be somewhat limited, and the best thing I can think of for you to do is to concentrate on teaching the twins that such language is not accepted by you. Try not to make too much of it when they say the words, as although I doubt they understand the meaning, they do understand that it upsets you.  Don’t even make eye contact, as they are probably just waiting for you to react.  Just take them by the hand and say “You know that Patty doesn’t accept those words” in a very low, calm voice.  Don’t interact with them any more than that, and put them in time out (away from each other, if they’re both in time out).  When time out is finished, make them look you in the eye and say “sorry” for using bad words, then carry on as normal.

This method may take some time to yield results, but due to their age I think it is about all you can do.

I hope this was of some help to you; if there are any readers who can give Patty more advice on this matter, please feel free to leave a comment or drop us a line.



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!



Splish-Splash, Let’s Take a Bath!

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, Readers' Enquiries

Reader Humreet writes:

My niece is 15 months old and up until recently, bath-time was an enjoyable time where she would love to sit and splash about.  Recently, she now completely freaks out if you try and put her anywhere near a bath.  She’s ok if you hold her over the edge so she can dip her hand in but if you get anywhere close to putting her in, she goes into meltdown.  It’s gotten so bad that she almost stops breathing because she is crying so much.  This is obviously taking its toll on my sister who can’t understand where this fear has come from.

We’ve tried pretty much everything, from numerous bath toys to my sister getting in the bath with her to try to show her there’s nothing to be afraid of.  The fear doesn’t seem to be water-related, as she loves swimming and isn’t afraid to touch or splash water.  It just seems to be a fear of bath-time!  Any advice you can offer will be most helpful!!

Hi Humreet,

Let me start by reassuring you and your sister that this is actually quite a common issue.  There might be no reason for your niece’s fear of the bath; it could just be one of those unexplained and passing quirks of childhood.

I remember one of my charges was terrified of the plug hole, and used to think that if you took the plug out whilst he was still in the bath he was going to get sucked down with the water.  So I would just take him out of the bath before I took the plug out, and leave his toys so he could watch the water disappear but not the toys.  It didn’t take long before he understood that there was no danger.

I think, first of all, if your sister and niece are  finding  bath time stressful, don’t  try to force the issue.  For a week, don’t take her anywhere near the bath.  You can give your niece a body wash or maybe wash her in the sink.  You could even use a baby bath if your sister has one or can borrow one from a friend (you wouldn’t be using it long enough to justify purchasing one at this stage).

After a week, start to encourage your niece to take a bath – take her to the bathroom, explaining what you are going to do and how much fun she is going to have.  If she starts to get agitated, let it go.  Let her put her hands in the bath if she is comfortable doing that; it’s a very good idea.  Maybe when you take a bath, leave the door open and let her come in and play – but really don’t force it, because there is a risk that it may eventually become more a battle of wills than an actual fear of bath time.

Humreet, I hope some of this information has been helpful to you and your sister. Even if at first your niece doesn’t respond to any of the tips I have given, I am confident that with a little bit of time this phase will pass and you will all be onto the next one.

Good luck!



Another Bedtime Story

August 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Readers' Enquiries

Jessica writes:

Hi, I have a 14 month old baby girl and recently she has started to not want to fall asleep in her cot.  From when she was born, I and my mum didn’t have a stable home and my daughter was always sleeping in the bed with me from the time she grew out of her Moses basket.  But now we have been settled in our own house and she now has her own room.

When we first got the cot she loved sleeping in her cot; during the day and nighttime she would sleep right through without a peep from her!  But recently when I go to put her to bed, before I even reach her bedroom door she starts stiffening up and crying hysterically.  I’ve tried putting her in bed and giving her a bottle, soothing her by stroking her head, singing, giving her nighttime baths and even taking her swimming at nights to tire her out.  But as soon as I go to leave she bounces straight up and cries for ages.  I don’t like to let her cry for too long; she would cry all night as she never gives in!  Hope you can help me!  Thanks x

Hi Jessica,

As I have mentioned before in other posts, around this age childrens’ sleep routines can start to change.  They are more aware of their surroundings, more active, and have more anxieties and fears.  You must also take into account that if she is not napping, she will become overtired at bedtime, which can cause her to have trouble sleeping at night.  In addition, while I think physical exercise during the day is helpful for this purpose, if done too close to bedtime it can be counterproductive.  Your daughter needs to be calm in order to be ready for bed; if she is overstimulated in the evening, it will make it harder for her to settle and self-soothe.

Although it sounds as if you’ve already tried some good methods, have you applied them consistently? If you’ve only tried them once or twice and she still cries, and you’ve given in and tried something else instead, then you are sending mixed signals to your daughter.  I would advise you to pick one routine and try to stick to it.  If you don’t like to leave her to cry out, then we need to find a routine that can work for the both of you, but you will have to stick to it.  For the first couple of days – maybe even up to a week – your daughter might still cry in the beginning, but with a bit of luck and persistence it will become less and less.

The first step, I think, is to encourage your daughter to become more accustomed to spending time in the bedroom and to think of it as a happy and relaxed place; at least that way you can get her into the room without a scene.  You can probably manage that by making the bedroom a play area and spending some time playing and reading there during the day.  At the same time, refrain from using the actual cot except for her sleeping (not as a playpen or for “time out”, for example).

Try to keep to the same bedtime every night.  Start your routine with a bath, all the time preparing her for bed and interacting with her by saying things like “Shall we go have a bath and get ready for bed?  Which pyjamas do you want to put on?  Shall we brush your teeth before we go to bed?”  Then take her to her room and sit on the floor and play with her for about 15 minutes.  Before you get her to help you tidy the toys away “because it is bedtime”, have her choose a book, which is the last step before bed.  During storytime turn the lights down low, and talk in a very low voice.  Finally, give her a little kiss and put her in bed.  Don’t hang around the bedroom if she stands and starts to cry, just walk out of the room.  I am almost certain that at least for the first week she will cry; you don’t have to let her cry out, but I do advise controlled crying in this situation.  Check out my post “Getting Baby’s Bedtime Back on Track“, which explains how this works.

If you do manage to stick to the routine, obviously you can change a few things here and there as you know your child best.  But most importantly, make it a routine; children at any age respond better to consistency.



Playing Nice With Others

Reader Tracy’s grandson is having trouble interacting with other children without resorting to aggressive behaviours, to the dismay of mum and grandmum alike.  She writes:

My 22-month-old grandson is gorgeous and loving; he was born big (11 lbs) and is still well built.  The problem is that wherever my daughter takes him, he makes the other children cry by pushing, shoving and sometimes pinching.  My daughter has tried telling him off, tried the naughty step … and is now at the end of her tether.  She doesn’t want to take him to any groups because of his behaviour, and I can see her spirits getting lower … HELP!


First of all, I don’t recommend that your daughter stop taking your grandson to kids’ groups.  At this age, your grandson is experiencing frustration, lack of verbal skills, and impulsiveness, which is totally normal.  With the right guidance and maturity, he will learn how to express himself and get what he wants in a different manner.

When they are at playgroup, tell your daughter to keep a close eye on him whilst he is going through this phase and if she sees him about to pounce, grab him quickly.  If it is too late, remove him immediately from the situation and give him time out for 5 minutes.  Then have him say “sorry” and maybe give a kiss or hug to the other child.

If your daughter is worried about what other mothers think, then I am sure if she explains the situation they will all understand, and they will have more sympathy when they see her taking steps to address it.  Maybe some will even have some tips of their own to share with her, as everybody who has had or taken care of small children will know what she is going through.

If the situation is dealt with correctly, although it could take some time, it will definitely pass eventually.  For additional help and support on this subject, I invite you also to consult my posts here and here.  Good luck to you, your daughter and your grandson!



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!



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!



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