Three experts teach you how to handle childhood milestones with ease
All parents hit speed bumps when it comes to getting their kids through early childhood milestones. Fortunately, we don’t need to go it alone. Parenting Times sourced some of the best pros in their respective businesses to help with the biggest growing-up hurdles.
The problem: Your child has trouble falling—or staying—asleep.
The expert: Erin Junker, paediatric sleep consultant and owner of the Happy Sleep Company
What it is: Sleep coaching is about changing routines and habits and teaching baby a new skill—a different way of falling asleep than they have in the past.
Who needs this service: “Generally, when we work with families, their child has previously only fallen asleep while being fed, or held, or with a pacifier, or in a parent’s bed,” says Junker. “Now the family wishes to change those sleep habits and teach baby to fall asleep independently so they have the skills to sleep longer stretches through the night, and go down more easily for restful daytime naps.”
How it works: Following a consultation and drawing up a sleep plan, Junker and her team work one-on-one with families to help them sleep more independently and get the rest they need. The consultant gives advice by phone and email based on a daily sleep log.
Try this at home: Timed check-ins involves ensuring baby is awake in the crib, leaving the room, and then checking back on baby at timed intervals to offer support and reassurance, Junker says. This ultimately ensures baby falls asleep without sleep props, like rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, etc. “The important part is that a family decides on the nuances of this type of approach before beginning—how long they are comfortable leaving the room for, how long they will go back in the room for each time, and what they will do and not do when they go back in. These are important things to decide on before beginning, and won’t be the same for each family based on their baby’s individual sleep challenges and the family’s parenting style,” says Junker.
The stay-in-the-room approach or camping out approach involves putting baby in the crib awake, but instead of leaving the room, staying in the room with baby until he falls asleep. Then, over time (usually over the course of days or weeks), the parent no longer stays in the room as baby illustrates more skill in going to sleep without the props. “Again, it’s important to determine what you will do while sitting in the room, such as words, touch, pick-ups, how often you’ll intervene, etc., and this will vary from family to family and baby to baby, based on their individual needs, comfort level, etc.,” Junker says.
Pro tips: “The very important thing is that the baby have love, support, and reassurance during the process,” says Junker. “Sleep coaching is inevitably going to involve a change for the child, which will usually be met with protest—we want to be realistic about that, and prepared for it with a plan that does not involve simply leaving a baby alone to cry by himself for huge, extended periods of time. We want to ensure that any approach we take ensures a baby can hear his parent’s voice, feel their touch, and have a hug if he needs a hug as he gets through this change and learns new sleep skills.”
The problem: Potty training does not come easy. There can be many failed attempts and big bumps in the road, which can look like a child withholding pee/poop or huge toddler-power struggles.
The expert: Ashley Lohse, CEO of Strong Beginnings, certified holistic sleep coach and maternity nurse
Who should call: Around the time that many families decide to potty train their child, parents have usually returned to work, says Lohse. “Daycares typically have an age limit of three years old, and the pressure is high for these parents to get potty-training results with their child, so it’s no coincidence that our busiest months are July and August when the deadline for preschool is looming.”
You may need help if: A) there have been multiple failed attempts at potty training or your child can only poop in a pull-up or diaper even though they are pee trained; B) your child withholds pee/poop for hours or even days; or C) your household is weighed down by the stress or the behaviours associated with potty training.
How it works: “We meet with parents in various ways to help guide them as they potty train their child successfully,” says Lohse. “Sometimes that takes the form of meeting online (in a group or one-on-one) where we walk through the potty-training steps catered to their family’s situation. Sometimes families need more support, and so we do offer to swoop into their home and taking on training their child for them.”
Try this at home: Lohse says that around 20-30 months is the best time to potty train any child. “They are capable, they are starting to exercise independence, and often showing interest in the toilet,” says Lohse. “Nighttime training happens around 3-3.5 years of age for many children, but is not something that happens on its own all the time.”
The key is identifying your child’s personality and learning style and using it to motivate him to succeed. Some children have a genuine fear of releasing, says Lohse. “It accounts for almost 70 percent of clients that we see, the child simply won’t go, or appears scared to go.”
- Clear your schedule. Expect to be home for three days. Get the potties ready, pre-pack snacks and make meals ahead of time so there are no distractions for when potty training starts.
- Keep your child naked from the waist down.
- Don’t ask “do you need to go pee?” every 15 minutes.
- Toileting is not optional. You want to say things like, “Your body is telling you, you need to go pee, let’s go pee”. “I can see you need to pee. I’ll race you to the toilet.”
- Celebrate successes but never shame, scorn or show disappointment if an accident occurs.
- You should expect that the first day will be a mess, some or no success is normal.
- Once you are seeing success with little or no accidents, you can put on pants but hold off on the underwear, which mimics the feel of a diaper. We want confident toileters before bringing back underwear.
- Try small outings to build confidence (yours and theirs). Use puppy pee pads to line strollers or car seats in case an accident happens.
- Pack a potty in the car (public washrooms can be terrifying places; you will need to ease into this gradually) along with a change of clothes.
- Once your child is confident and accident-free in pants, bring back the underwear.
Pro Tip: Give it your everything, make this one and done, says Lohse.
The problem: Your child has strong food dislikes, eats a limited variety, “food jags” (eating only few foods), only wants foods prepared in a specific way, mealtime tantrums, eats too slow (or too fast) or is refusing new foods. Mealtimes can be a battle because of concerns your child is not getting enough healthy foods.
The expert: Jane Hammingh, RD, public health dietitian, Ottawa Public Health
About picky eating: Picky eating is a relatively common problem during childhood and up to 50 percent of children may experience it at one time or another, says Hammingh. Often, parents provide their child a meal different from the rest of the family. It is normal for young children to be skeptical about new food, having appetites vary from meal to meal, eat only one or two foods, and have their likes change often.
Try this at home:
- Prepare one meal for the family, with at least one food you know your child will eat.
- Involve your child in making and/or serving a meal—they will be more likely to eat it.
- Remove distractions like cell phones, tablets, toys, books, TV or other screens while eating.
- Do not pressure children to clean the plate, force food or use food as a reward. Children will not eat well if they feel pressured.
- Listen to your child—they know when they are full or hungry.
- Unfamiliar foods can be intimidating. Kids may need time to see, play, touch and watch their parents eat certain foods before they accept it themselves.
- Offer new foods repeatedly—different days, different recipes, different meals.
- Build up your child’s list of acceptable foods by adding a few new foods regularly.
- Remember the division of responsibility. Your role is to offer the variety of healthy foods; your child decides what, and how much they eat.
- Keep trying. It takes up to 15 times for a child to start liking a new food.
Pro Tips: “The way we talk to children about food and the way we interact with them during meal and snack times can help set them up for a healthy future,” says Hammingh. “Use positives phrases that help, and stay away from negative phrases that hinder.”