As soon as your toddler outgrows his cot, and makes the transition into a ‘big bed’, there may be some high jinks at bedtime. Most parents do want to foster night-time independence in their toddlers, and really do feel quite desperate at the thought of another night spent negotiating with a roaming toddler.
Some children simply find that this new found freedom is a wonderful excuse for prolonged bedtimes, plus frequent visits to mom and dad’s bedroom throughout the night! If you have no issues with this, and love having your toddler sleep with you, read no further! Seriously though, before looking at bedtime and sleep itself you need to be sure your toddler is primed for good sleep habits. A clean bill of health is a good start, as is a sleep zone that supports sleep. Make sure his room is entirely safe so that he cannot harm himself. At this age, he already has deeply entrenched expectations and associations related to where and how he goes to sleep, and you can use them to your advantage Keep the light very dim and muted or use a night light, so that your toddler is never left alone in the dark. His imagination is developing at this age, which might make him fearful of dark shadows. By now you know the importance of a regular day sleep routine, but a regular bedtime routine is just as important. Bedtime is often the period of time when your little toddler is at his most unsettled. If there is no pattern to his bedtime rituals such as a quiet bath, followed by the last drink of the day (that’s milk, not wine!) in a calm sleep zone, your little toddler will not begin to recognize the necessary sensory cues that prompt sleep.
Remember separation anxiety is real, and a normal phase of toddler development that may affect sleep. This phase will pass, but while it lasts, to avoid long term bad habits developing, be firm about not falling into the trap of feeding, rocking or co-sleeping if these are habits you do not wish to encourage. At this stage your toddler may become anxious at bedtime, and may call out to you frequently during the night, or come through to your room due to fears of being alone. This is typical at this age, as your toddler is developing imagination and may begin to suffer from nightmares and imagined ‘boogymen’. Use strategies to normalize separations for your toddler by playing games during the day such as peek a boo and hide and seek. Every toddler is different and the degree to which yours will be affected may vary substantially from other toddlers you know. When you are ready to tackle the situation, bear the following in mind:
Boundaries need to be clearly set, and negotiations can happen within these predetermined boundaries. Your toddler needs to understand clearly the sleep boundaries you have for him. All the role players in the care of your toddler need to agree on sleep boundaries.
Keep a night light on in his room or in the passage or bathroom, so that he is not in the dark should he wake.
Limit television completely for at least two to three hours before bed as this has been linked to fears and increased nightmares.
Encourage the use of a comfort object such as a blanket or a soft toy, and keep it in his bed so that bedtime holds that attraction of his special sensory comforter. It will also be available for comfort when he wakes in the night.
Let’s do it
At bedtime, if your toddler begins to negotiate or protest or jumps out of bed within minutes of you leaving the room, he needs to be taught how to put himself to sleep. This is what you must also do when he comes through to you at night. At some stage (yes, it will happen to you) many toddlers wake up and wander through to their parent’s bedroom. Begin by instilling a boundary and consistently lead your toddler back to his bed when this happens. The goal is to have your toddler sleep in his bed.
Walk him back to back to bed, without admonishing him or raising your voice. Stay calm, confident and focused and encourage his comfort object.
Respond by acknowledging his request: Say to him “I know you want me to stay with you
Empathise so he feels understood by mirroring his request: Say to him “I would love to stay with you”
Give a reason: Say to him “But I can’t because it is time to sleep”
Offer an alternative solution. Say to him “ Why don’t you rather lie here with your special teddy, and I’ll sit on the bed next to you”
Set a boundary: Say to him “If you lie down and go to sleep, I will sit with you until you fall asleep”
Give a consequence: Say to him “If you get up again, I will have to leave”.
For as long as your toddler stays in bed and makes an effort to be quiet and go to sleep, sit with him until he falls asleep (no matter how long it takes, so be prepared for this). You must stick to your end of the deal if he sticks to his.
If he breaks his end of the deal, by getting up, you must remind him about the deal you made, offer him a chance to try again, but if he resists, then get up and leave the room and close the door so that he can’t follow. It is important that he remains in his room so if he is able to open the door himself install a latch. Don’t worry about leaving him behind a closed door. You are simply making sure that his room is containing him much the same as he was contained in his cot before. This is why it is important to have a night-light on and to make his room a safe environment for him.
From outside the room, tell him you will return when he gets back into bed.
As soon as you see/hear him get onto his bed, OR after one minute of crying (whatever happens first), go back in to his room quietly and calmly. Resist the temptation to raise your voice.
If he is crying, calm him down with a hug, encourage his comfort object, wait until he has stopped crying, then re-negotiate with him. (Remember to acknowledge and empathise with his request, then give him a reason, a boundary and a consequence).
Leave the room if he does not comply with the boundary you have offered him (which is to stay with him until he falls asleep provided he lies in his bed). Close the door.
Return immediately to him if he does get back into bed, and praise him for listening to you. Reward him by staying with him until he falls asleep. If he cries and bangs on the door, wait for two minutes before you return to re-negotiate with him. Remember to stay calm and focused, never raise your voice and offer him lots of calming stimuli such as a hug and his comfort object. He needs to be calm again before you can re-negotiate with him. Be prepared for this to take some time.
Keep going in this manner – return to him as soon as he is back in bed, OR if he will not stay in his bed and bangs on the door, increase the period of time before you respond to him by one minute each time until he eventually falls asleep.
Repeat the procedure each time he wakes during the first night. If he complies with your boundary (by staying in his bed) always reward him by staying with him as you have promised (no matter how tedious you may find this in the middle of the night) until he falls asleep. If he will not comply (by jumping out of bed and running away), leave the room, close the door and leave him for one minute until you return quietly and calmly to re-negotiate! If you do have to leave the room, increase the period of time by one minute each time, until he eventually falls asleep.
By the second or third night, your toddler has probably realised that if he does as you ask him (which is to stop the high jinks at sleep time), you will sit with him on the bed until he goes to sleep at bedtime, and if he wakes during the night. When this is consistently happening, it is time to move to the next step. Be patient, it may take time to get to this step.
Begin bedtime in exactly the same way, but tell him (by acknowledging empathizing and reasoning with a boundary and a consequence) that you will no longer be sitting on the bed with him, but will rather be sitting in a chair alongside the bed.
As before, complete your negotiation with him. If he complies with your boundary (which is to stay in his bed and go to sleep) you will stay in his room with him, but you will be in the chair. If he does not comply with your boundary, then follow the same procedure as before by going out of the room and closing the door. Continue with the programme as you did before, until he falls asleep.
When he is happy to stay in his bed and go to sleep as long as you are sitting in the chair (at bedtime and when he wakes in the night), move to the next step. Bear in mind it may take you a few nights to achieve this – be patient, loving and consistent.
Move the chair away from his bed to another part of the room as close to the door as possible. Repeat the sleep modification steps as above until he is happy to go to sleep in his bed with you sitting in the sleep zone apart from him.
The next step is to move the chair out of the room (tell him that you have given it to the poor children). At bedtime, simply ‘linger’ in the room, maybe even stepping into the bathroom for a second or two (always reassure him that you will be back) before returning to ‘linger’ once more. Repeat the sleep modification steps as above until he is happy to go to sleep in his bed as long as you are ‘lingering’ around.
The final step (this step may have taken you as little as a few days to reach, or it may be a week down the line by now), is to tell him you need to leave the room for a minute to perform a task. Reassure him that when you are finished your task you promise to return. Do as you have promised and return. Don’t forget to praise him each time you return if he has stayed in his bed. Keep popping in and out, but gradually increase the amount of time you spend out of his room. Repeat the sleep modification steps as above until he is happy to fall asleep in his bed as long as you continue to pop in and out.
After a few nights of this you will return after your first absence to find him asleep.
At last! Your toddler has learnt the new technique of falling asleep independently.
Once your toddler is generally sleeping in his bed, you may still find he has the odd night when he is very distressed when he wakes. These are the times when he may be distraught due to a nightmare and imagination fears or separation anxiety. When this happens you may need to allow him to sleep next to your bed. By not allowing him into your bed and not making his makeshift bed too comfortable, you will not instil long lasting habits. Know that it will not last forever and is usually a passing stage. However, if it becomes a nightly occurrence and is a problem for you, start to make it less easy for him to do. Always take him back to his room first. If he insists on returning to your bedroom let him carry his own bedding and settle himself. Allowing your toddler to sleep on the floor next to you whilst you are undoing the unhealthy sleep habit of having him in your bed, may be a necessary process you will need to undertake whilst you foster confidence in him to become independent. However, if your toddler is persistently coming through to you a night, and insisting on getting into your bed, this again is a scenario that you could leave as it is if it is not an issue with you. When you are ready to reclaim your sleep space, allow him to sleep on a mattress or some continental pillows next to your bed to help him with the transition to his own room. Remember to always acknowledge his feeling: “I know you want to be in the bed with me.” Then mirror the feeling by saying “I love having you in the bed,” Then give a reason why he can’t be in the bed with you “This is my bed, and there is too little space now that you are bigger” Offer an alternative: “Why don’t you lie on the floor next to me and I’ll hold your hand” You will need to follow through on this boundary and be firm about him not getting back into your bed. If he will not lie on the floor next to you, take him back to his bed. At this point, you may have to start adopting some sleep training strategies as mentioned above.
If your toddler voices a fear about ‘the bogeyman’, a very useful trick is to buy a plastic spray bottle from the supermarket. Fill it with coloured water, and label it ‘bogeyman spray’. As part of his bedtime ritual, allow him to spray his bed and around his sleep zone with this solution. This empowering gesture will help him to feel in control of his fears. Reassure him that he can use it again should he wake in the night.
Teach your toddler these sleep rules early and repeat them often:
At bedtime we
stay in bed
close our eyes
stay very quiet and
go to sleep
By Meg Faure
Guidelines for different sleep routines at different ages. Every mom and baby is different and a routine that proposes to be a one fits all is not realistic. Here are guidelines for different routines at different ages:
Routines for newborns
Your newborn is too little to have a fixed routine and routines at this age generally do more harm than good. Here are the principles:
Don’t aim for routine at this stage
Feed on demand
Expect your baby to wake as frequently day and night • Aim to settle your baby to sleep after an hour of awake time during the day
Routines for 2 – 4 months
Patterns begin to emerge, with your baby guiding the way; a routine may be possible in this age band:
Feed 3-4 hourly
At nights your baby will begin to stretch the time between feeds
Put your baby to sleep during the day after 1 ½ hours of awake time
Read more about awake times
Routines for 4-6 months
Routines begin to emerge in earnest and most babies do well with the predictability of when to sleep and when to feed:
Feed on schedule with flexibility – 3-4 hours between milk feeds. Solids may be introduced during this time, if your baby needs solids
Read more on introducing solids
Introduce a consistent bedtime routine that calms your baby for sleep. Do not leave your baby’s bathroom and room during this time
Suggested day sleep routine:
Wake between 5 and 7am
Wake +1 ½ hours = morning nap – 45 minutes
Wake +1 ½ hours = late morning nap or sleep
If this sleep short – wake +1 ½ hours = afternoon nap and another cat nap at 5pm (4 sleeps)
If this sleep is long – wake + 2 hours = afternoon nap
Wake from naps by 5pm
Bedtime routine starts 1 hour before bed
Bedtime by 6:30
Routines for 6- 9 months
At this age, routines can make the difference between a good eater and sleeper or poor habits:
Day sleep routine:
Wake between 5 and 7am
Wake +2 hours = morning nap – 45 minutes
Wake +2 hours = midday sleep
Wake + 2 ½ hours = afternoon nap
Wake from naps by 4:30pm
Bedtime routine starts 1 hour before bed
Bedtime by 6:30
Routines for 9-12 months
A good day sleep and feeding routine assists good night sleep habits:
Day sleep routine:
Wake between 5 and 7am
Wake +2 ½ hours = morning nap – 45 minutes
Wake +2 ½ hours = midday sleep
From 9 months - drop afternoon nap
Wake from naps by 4pm i.e. very short cat nap if needed
Bedtime routine starts 1 hour before bed
Bedtime by 6:30
Routines for toddlers
By now a routine should be a way of life and will free you up in many ways:
Day sleep routine:
12pm – one midday sleep
Wake from sleep by 3pm
Bedtime routine starts 1 hour before bed
Bedtime by 6:30- 7pm
Routines are not a priority
If you are a go-with the flow, laissez-faire type person you may not want a routine at all and that is perfectly good, particularly if you have a settled baby.
Read more about baby personality
By Meg Faure
Your first Christmas with your little one is likely to be a very special time, filled with laughter and precious memories. Your baby will be the focus of much spoiling and indulgence; after all, it truly is a time for children. The silly season is upon us and holidays and festivals are the flavour of the month. For most of us our routined and mundane life will be upended by a series of business functions, parties or trips to relaxing destinations.
All the variety is just what we need to relax at the end of the year, but with baby in tow, the definition of relax has changed somewhat. Knowing that babies function best with boundaries, routine and their familiar environment, it’s not surprising that all the excitement and the frenetic tone of silly season can result in a very unsettled and miserable little baby.
Here are tips to surviving the long, exciting days
Changes to routine: Babies do better with flexible routines and for many mums having some structure to the day is a life-line, which is why Baby Sense advocates a flexible routine. However, there are times when family commitments and life in general make flexibility essential. When rushing around and fitting in parties, try to watch your baby’s awake times and make sure your baby can settle in a quiet space to limit the risk of over tiredness. For instance, if your baby sleeps easily in the car, drive to the party during a sleep time and be sure your baby has the opportunity to sleep before the event. On the other hand a quiet space in the house you are visiting can help you to settle your baby. Once your baby is a little older and in a good routine, you will find you can disrupt the schedule and happily return to it a few days later.
Bedtimes: The only solution for a tired and over stimulated baby is sleep. Ironically it’s the one thing they fight the most when routines and environments change.
Be sure to keep quite rigidly to your baby’s evening bedtime. Your baby won’t remember or benefit from late nights of carolling or ‘kuiering’ and at the end of the day, you will enjoy your social life more knowing your little one is asleep.
Find a spare bed where you are or hire a baby sitter to listen while your little sleeps.
If you must take her with you, put her in the Baby Sense Bunting – a sleeping bag with a hole for her car seat straps, so that she can travel safely in her car seat without being unwrapped from the warm blankets.
Busy spaces: During the holidays you are bound to find yourself dragging your little one into baby unfriendly and over stimulating spaces, such as shopping centres and airports. To cope in these environments, shield your baby from the busy, noisy, brightly coloured space by creating a quiet zone.
You can do this by covering your baby’s pram with a blanket and letting him play with a few toys in this zone.
For the young baby – under 6 months, carry him in a sling, which creates a quiet zone against your body.
Spend the minimum amount of time possible in these spaces by leaving your baby with a friend when you go shopping for gifts.
If your flight is delayed or you have extra time before takeoff, you should make your way to the Premier Club at the airport. This lounge offers a quiet space, kids play space and free drinks and snacks to certain bank card holders, such as American Express, Investec, etc. For the rest of us there is an entrance fee – a small price to pay if you have a long delay and need a quiet space with your baby.
Overstimulation: High levels of social interaction and stimulation can cause babies to become fractious.
For small babies – less than three months old, do be cautious and prevent your baby from being too exposed to stimuli. This is her first December and in reality she will not remember if she saw Father Christmas or was awake for present opening. On Christmas day or any other big family gathering, find a quiet space you can retreat to with your baby when you notice his subtle signals of over stimulation.
On the other hand older babies can cope with much more stimulation without being disrupted and so let him enjoy all the bright colours and fun interactions. Your baby will love the process of unwrapping lots of pressies and it’s probably the paper and boxes he loves the most! A good idea is to then hide away all but two of the new toys to bring out one a week over the next few months. In this way your baby always has something new and exciting to explore and learn from. He also won’t suffer the overstimulation associated with too much of a good thing.
Remember every baby is an individual and by now you will know if your baby is easily upset and more sensitive or chilled and easy going. Tailor the amount of interactions to your baby’s capacity for stimulation.
New sleep spaces: You may just have got your baby into a good sleep and bedtime routine and feel anxious about going away on holiday and disrupting your baby’s sleep habits. A familiar sleep zone is one of the best sleep triggers we know and we all sleep best tucked up in our own beds.
If you are staying away from home, try to recreate your baby’s sleep zone as much as possible by using his own bedding, and placing his cot is a quiet space that becomes ‘his sleep zone’.
Don’t forget to take his doodoo blanky or Taglet or whatever he uses at night to self-sooth to sleep.
If you are travelling to the Cape, remember the sun sets later and so a dark area, preferably with block out curtains will help you in the evenings.
If you are going to be sharing a sleep space with your baby take along the white noise CD so your baby won’t hear you at night and you will be less likely to be disturbed by the little baby sleep noises.
Travelling with baby: Going on holiday often means travelling a distance with a small baby which can be stressful.
If you are travelling by airplane,
Use a sling or baby carrier. In a sling your baby can sleep without being disturbed between boarding and take off.
A two-hour flight is the perfect length for the midday sleep and many babies are lulled to sleep by the noise of the airplane. Be sure that you don’t keep your baby awake especially for the flight, as an overtired baby is more likely to fuss on the plane than fall easily to sleep.
An international haul is best taken at night so your baby can sleep the whole way over.
If you are travelling by car,
Pack two boxes of tricks: one for toys and the other for food and snacks. Put in sufficient healthy sugar free and fruit snacks to keep your finger feeder occupied. If breastfeeding, plan stops for feeds into your road plan as having your baby out of his car seat is dangerous. In the second box of tricks, pack a few activities for your baby:
A brightly coloured interactive book, such as a lift the flap books or textured books.
A mirror attached to the back of the seat in front of your baby so he can see you (if still rear facing) or himself.
A noisy toy such as a rattle or push-button toy
Textured toy such as a puppet or feely toy
For older toddlers an activity book and crayons
CD’s for the car
If your road trip is long, take frequent breaks that coincide with your baby’s awake time. Drive while she is asleep as far as possible or shortly after waking when she will be content to sit in her car chair.
Snacks: A hungry baby is a miserable baby. In all the rush and socialisation of the holidays don’t feel like the worst mother if you forget a mealtime or a feed sneaks up on you and you find yourself unprepared. Make a big batch of healthy home cooked veggies and a chicken stew that you purée. Then freeze the veggies and chicken in ice trays. When you are going out over lunchtime, pack 3 – 6 frozen cubes in a sealed container and it will defrost slowly while you travel and be ready to be heated for the mealtime.
Slow down: The frenetic pace of the festive season eventually takes its toll on the calmest of us. But for the young baby, susceptible to overstimulation, it can be torture. Your baby will begin to show signs of sensory over load, such as weepiness, fighting sleep and general irritability. And as we know when baby is unsettled we all feel the pain.
The best you can do is to slow down and have a quiet day with her.
Take her to a calming spot, such as a botanical garden or just stay at home for a day getting her back into her routine.
Take a deep breath and extricate yourself from family commitments or busy environments and take a day out with your baby.
Social pressure: Almost every mom feels the pressure to socialise and get her baby out over the festive season. If this is stressful for you, ask your family to understand that you are not ready to go out with your newborn. Your partner can help protect you from all the focus and demands of a busy social time. Toddlers likewise have a tough time managing too much socialising and can’t be expected to ‘behave’ once they are over stimulated. Limit toddler interactions and stimulation to 1 hour stretches per year of their life – in other words a party for a two year old can be two hours long; a visit to cousins an hour for a one year old. Thereafter give your toddler a break from interactions and some quiet down time.
Above all enjoy making memories and spending quality time with friends and family and remember to be sense-able with your baby and he will also love this time together.
By Meg Faure
Babies function best with a routine. But this concept is easily abused and taken to the extreme. Like you, your baby has an in-built time clock and physical needs; however these needs differ substantially from yours. Where you only need eight hours sleep a night, your baby needs anywhere from 18 or 20 hours (for a newborn) to 14 hours (for a toddler), per 24 hour cycle.
Where your baby’s sleep habits differ most from yours is that he has periods of time we call awake times, which are periods of time in which he can be happily awake. During this time he will be happy and interactive, learning from his environment. If this period is stretched, in other words your baby is kept awake for longer than his ideal awake time, he will become needy, easily over stimulated and generally irritable. In addition to this he will not naturally fall into a sleepy state and thus will be more difficult to get to sleep.
Where rigid, prescribed routines go wrong is that a baby is forced to sleep at his mother’s convenience or at a predetermined time each day. If this time happens to be before his awake time is up, he won’t want to fall asleep. But more commonly it is once he is overtired and the natural lull in his states has been missed. So being overtired and needy he is significantly more difficult to get to sleep.
An example of a rigid routine that is a recipe for an irritable baby and highly anxious mother is one where a two week old baby must have a morning sleep at 9am, having woken at 7am. This would mean he must stay awake for two hours. The ideal ‘awake time’ for newborns is an hour at the most. Waiting two hours, just to stick to a predetermined time makes no sense, as newborns literally can’t cope being awake this long. Furthermore, the baby may have woken at 6am in which case it would be a three hour stretch which is a recipe for a very irritable baby.
A baby-centric approach would be to have the guidelines of ‘awake time’ for each developmental age, as found in Baby Sense and then more importantly to learn to read your baby’s signals. Practically this would entail watching the clock to see what time your baby wakes and then make sure to watch that your baby goes down according to his ‘awake times’. In addition to this you should watch for your baby’s own signals. Signals that a baby is tired include rubbing eyes, sucking hands, touching ears, looking into space, drowsy eyes or many other self-soothing strategies. When your baby shows the signs of drowsiness, he should be put down to sleep.
In this way, your baby dictates his sleep times in two ways: firstly according to developmental norms and then according to his own capacity for interactions, by signaling when he is tired. Being tuned to your own baby’s needs will help you to put her baby down more easily and in that way establish healthy day sleep routines.
By Meg Faure
You have been happily living with a part time domestic worker who comes in twice a week and manages to keep your home perfectly in order. Now the time has come when you are blessed with a little one on the way and you would like to leave your precious bundle at home when you go back to work – TERROR strikes as you realize that you have to find someone to take care of her and you are not sure if your domestic worker is the right person for the job!
When is the best time to hire my nanny?
As soon as possible as you have no guarantee that “Mary Poppins” will be the first one through the door. You may have to try a few people before you find the person that you like and trust and feel is up to the huge task of looking after your child in your absence.
What should I look for in my nanny?
Hire someone who is honest and reliable and train them. We often look for the perfect nanny – someone who is totally reliable, extremely hard working, knows all there is to know about caring for your little one and is able to keep up with all the housework. All without complaining or getting tired –
This is hardly ever achievable – rather look for someone who is honest, reliable and keen to learn - then teach them your way.
I’ve hired a wonderful lady, but she just doesn’t do it right!
There is more than one way to do it. Remember that the person your nanny worked for before you may have had very different standards and ways of doing things. Make time to explain, and where possible demonstrate how you like things done. Write task lists and give feedback – when she does it right as well as when there is need for improvement.
I am worried that she will leave my baby in order to get through all the house work and don’t want my child to be neglected.
Detail your priorities clearly. Your nanny wants to please you and as such may be overwhelmed by the daunting task of keeping up with the house work as well as taking care of your precious baby. It is your responsibility to set the priorities and communicate these clearly. e.g. “Please give Sarah all your attention and do what you can when she is sleeping” OR “Please make sure that the kitchen is tidy and the beds are made before you do any other house work”
I am almost ready to go back to work and have not left my nanny alone with my baby yet, how do I know she will cope?
Give her a chance to get to know your baby and learn what needs to be done. Start by letting her change your baby’s nappy – show her how to do this first, then let her do it herself. Slowly start adding responsibilities such as washing and sterilizing bottles, feeding your baby and winding her. Once you are comfortable she can do this. Start popping out to the shops or to meet you friends for a quick cup of coffee – without your baby. Begin by leaving at a time that you know your baby will be restful or in a good mood and leave your contact numbers incase she needs you.
Remember that it is very important that your baby has had time to get used to your nanny before you go back to work so that your baby also trusts her and both are relaxed.
I have worked hard to get my baby into a routine and want to be sure that my nanny sticks to it, what can I do?
Write up a list of important activities and times and let her watch you through the day, until she understands how it is done – show her more than once and talk about everything as you go along. The list may include sleep time, feed time and wake times.
Create a sheet for her to log against these during the day and include notes such as nappy changes and “what was in the nappy”. That way you will know how much your baby ate, slept and played in the day, as well as whether there are any areas of concern.
Remember that babies routines change according to age, mood and a number of less predictable circumstances, make it clear that you would like your nanny to stick to your routine, but encourage her to discuss any issues with you so that you can adapt the routine appropriately e.g. cut down on snooze time, introduce more solids etc.
My nanny is very sweet and nurturing, but does not know how to stimulate my child, which is becoming a concern as my baby grows.
Give her ideas for the week. There are many wonderful websites, books and training courses that will give your nanny many ideas of age appropriate developmental activities she can do with your child. In addition to helping your child develop, your nanny will love the change in routine and the opportunity to do something fun during her day.
Remember to say Thank you
We all appreciate thanks, even when we are just doing our job!
By Meg Faure
The process of interviewing and selecting the prefect nanny is potentially very challenging, there are many wonderful women (and men) with a passion for children looking for work as nannies. The key is to find the perfect nanny for your family and home.
When looking for a potential nanny, there are a few considerations to make before you brief placement agencies or prepare to source potential candidates in order to set up interviews.
Ask yourself the following questions, many of which are not entirely politically correct, however one needs to be honest with oneself when looking for someone to care for your baby, be in your home and share your space. It makes it much easier for the agencies to select suitable candidates if they have all the information.
Do I have a preferred age group that I would like to have working for me?
Would I prefer a person of specific religious or cultural background?
Do I mind if the person is loud and energetic or would I prefer a quieter person?
Do I want the nanny to live in or live out?
Would I be comfortable with a man caring for my children?
Is it essential that the candidate has training, or am I willing to train them myself?
Answering each of these questions honestly will help make your first impression a good one, allowing you to focus on the interview.
When the time comes to interview the candidates, there are many questions that need to be answered, below are some that may be helpful. There is no need to go through them all, however you may find that its worth it to get all the information you need. Remember that an interview is stressful and even more so for someone who does not speak your language as a home language, so be patient, be kind and make the person feel safe to answer the questions to the best of their ability, There are no trick questions. The most important thing is to listen carefully to what she says and watch what she does, how she interacts with your child. Be attuned to your own emotional responses, as well: How at comfortable do you feel with her? How easy is it to communicate with her?
And whatever you do, don't dominate the conversation – let her do most of the talking. Your objective is to give her a sense of the job, but more than anything, get to know her and whether she'll fit in with your family.
Try to have your child around at some point during the interview – or even throughout – so you can observe how the candidate interacts with your child and how your child interacts with her.
Nanny Interview Questions
How long have you been a nanny?
What was your last job caring for children like? How old were the children? What was the family like? What were your responsibilities? What hours did you work? Why did the job end?
Why are you looking for a new position?
What would a typical day be for you with a child my child's age?
What kinds of activities would you plan to do?
Why are you a nanny? What do you enjoy most about taking care of children? What do you like least about it?
Are you looking for a live-in position? If not, where do you live and how do you plan to get back and forth to work?
What do you think children like best about you?
What do you consider to be your most important responsibility when you're taking care of children?
What sorts of challenges have you encountered with kids you've been taking care of and how have you handled them?
How do you discipline children? Can you give me some examples?
How do you comfort a child who is upset about something?
How do you deal with separation anxiety?
Have you ever had to handle an emergency on the job or in your home? Can you tell me what happened and how you dealt with it?
What would you do if my child got sick or had an accident?
What sorts of routines have you had to follow in your past jobs – morning routines, naptime routines – and how have you handled them?
How do you deal with being asked to follow rules or disciplining/comforting strategies that might be different from your own?
If I'm working at home, how would you keep my child happy and engaged without involving me? Have you taken care of children in a situation in which a parent has been working and around?
Can you cook? Can you tell me what kinds of food you can cook. If you cannot cook, would you like to learn?
Can you read and write?
Can you drive?
Can you swim?
How do you feel about performing housekeeping chores?
How flexible is your schedule? Are you willing to work evenings and weekends? If we need to stay at work later than expected from time to time or go out of town, would you be willing and able to accommodate that, provided we pay you for the extra hours?
Do you smoke?
Do you have any dependants? If so, how many, how old are they and where do they live. If they are school going age or younger, who cares for them during the day?
Where do you live and how long does it take you to get here? What transport do you use to get here and what does it cost (taxi, train etc)
Who do you live with?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Do you have any child care/ nanny training?
Do you have child-CPR or first-aid training? When last did you do this (it is recommended that one does a refresher every 2 years)
Would you be interested in taking childcare, First Aid or development courses, if we paid for them?
What are your salary expectations?
When do you usually take holidays and do you go away for the holidays? If so, where do you go?
When would you be able to start working?
Would you mind if I ran a background check on you?
Can you give me the names and numbers of former employers I can call as references?
About Sugar and Spice Nanny Training:
Sugar & Spice Nanny Training offers childcare courses for nannies and childminders in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Our primary focus is on empowering Domestic Workers working in family homes as nannies and house keepers with all the essential knowledge, practical skills and real confidence they need to take care of children and babies from birth upwards.
Our nanny training course has been running since January 2003 and in this time we have given more than 1000 nannies the confidence and essential tools to take care of and stimulate the babies and young children they love and are responsible for - both at work and in their communities.
By Kirsten McIntosh from www.nannytraining.co.za
Summer holidays, Chanuka and Christmas are upon us! And as the days get longer and more festive, we expect the same from our babies and toddlers – long, happy, cheerful days! The problem is that all the changes in routine and excitement that holidays and family events bring, may make your baby over stimulated and irritable. To help you survive the festive season, here are some sensible tips.
Your baby will love all the fun associated with the festive season and if you go on holiday it is likely to be the first time in a while that your baby will enjoy both mom’s and dad’s full attention. But all the fun and games can be disruptive for babies. Do have fun with your baby and help them to enjoy all the stimulation but always balance all the excitement with ‘down time’ and calming input. Here are 5 tips to surviving the long, exciting days:
Watch your baby’s signals. As the excitement mounts your baby will give you signals that warn you that he is becoming over stimulated. For little babies looking away and sucking furiously on their hands often precede grizzling and finally crying. As your baby gets older he may push you or a toy away and try to turn away from the stimulus. It won’t be long before he starts to cry and fuss. Toddlers who are becoming over stimulated may start to suck their hands or whine for a dummy or bottle. Thereafter they become obstinate and difficult before descending into chaos. When you notice these signals, remove your baby from the environment and settle him quietly in a calm space or take him for a calming walk in a sling or pram.
Have a quiet space Holiday times are often spent in strange places, with disrupted routines. It is vital that your baby has a secure space created for him that he can retreat to when things get too exciting. Newborns are happy to sleep anywhere but it is still worth choosing a quiet room where you can go to feed your baby and put on a white noise CD and let him go to sleep, even in another persons’ home. Baby’s really need familiar sleep zones if you are to keep them in their routine. Choose a dark, quiet room with a cot placed in a similar way to their own room. Then put their own bedding into the cot to create a comforting space. For your toddler, take a familiar toy and blanket with you and make a space with cushions and books for him to have time out. Time out needs not be used as a punishment but rather as a tool to prevent over stimulation.
Travel with a sling Traveling with a baby can be stressful as you are generally confined to a space and time schedule that you have little control over. A good idea if you are flying is to use a sling as this can be used to create a womb space or quiet space where your baby can sleep and feed without being disturbed too much. If you are driving or flying try to schedule the trip during your baby’s sleep as they will sleep peacefully while you travel. For the older baby and toddler, a flight may be too exciting and it this case an overtired toddler will be a mission to travel with. So schedule flights for when your toddler is well rested and fed.
Keep a focus on day sleeps A well rested baby or toddler is much better equipped to deal with excitement, stimulation and disruptions to routine. Make sure that no matter where you are and what is going on, your baby or toddler has the opportunity to sleep when he needs to. Follow the ‘Awake time’ guidelines in Baby Sense for your baby’s age and be sure that he is in his sleep zone 10 minutes before his sleep is due. For newborns, you may have to disrupt a family event as opposed to miss your baby’s sleep, because and overtired baby won’t be fun for anyone. As your baby gets older, the awake times get longer and your baby becomes more flexible too. If you have an easy baby, then you can push the ‘Awake times’ out slightly.
Take time out Many a seasoned mom will tell you from bitter experience that holidays aren’t holidays at all any more. Somehow being out of the familiar environment with all the support and conveniences of home makes holidays hard work. Try to find holiday venues with child care and rely on family to give you a bit of a break.
Using some of these tips you should be able to enjoy your first festive season with your baby. Have fun, relax a little and take lots of pics!
By Meg Faure
Any parent who decides to employ a carer to look after his or her child should bear the following points in mind.
In her work as a psychotherapist, Judith Davis hears many stories concerning nannies and their charges. She works with adults and children, and parents together with their babies and so is privy to all perspectives. She describes that experiences and outcomes vary enormously: often she hears of wonderful nannies and wonderful employers, but where the contrary occurs, the consequences can be painful. This month Judith looks at what to bear in mind when looking for alternate care for your baby.
There is a small academic literature on the subject of nannies (including two doctorates written in South Africa) and the most important contribution is from Canadian psychoanalyst, Harry Hardin. Hardin has written extensively on his clinical experiences and reveals an astonishing finding: the quality of a parent’s relationship with the carer of his or her child will have a profound effect on the parent’s relationship with the child.
In my experience, a situation in which a nanny is treated without consideration or respect is likely to yield quite a different effect on the child, her development and her relationship with her parent/s, to one in which the attitude towards the nanny is one of respect and concern.
I would suggest that any parent who decides to employ a carer to look after his or her child bear the following points in mind.
Much current literature suggests that infants under the age of two benefit more from individual care. Thereafter, group care has fewer negative consequences.
Parents want to ensure that their baby will be sensitively and reliably cared for. It is easy to discuss and arrange the practical tasks to be undertaken, but sensitive attunement is harder to assess and quantify. Parents need to get a ‘gut feeling’ about this, and to watch to see if the nanny is open to the baby’s communications.
Caring for babies is demanding of both time and emotion and nannies must be given the capacity to provide time and emotion to babies in their care. It unrealistic and unfair to expect a domestic worker to provide adequate care if she still required to attend to all the domestic chores.
Parents should be clear with the nanny that the baby’s needs take precedence. Alternatively, another person should be employed to attend to some of the housework.
Those nannies that provide the best care for babies are those who feel valued – who receive good conditions of employment decent wages and are able to talk about their work with the parents.
The quality of care is also generally enhanced where nannies are able to be part of a social network in which caring for babies is discussed and experiences are shared.
Changing nannies will have an impact on the baby or child. They will be losing a primary relationship.
The above should help parents to optimise their child’s relationship with their nanny, which will in turn, enhance and support the parents’ care for their babies and their babies’ development.
By Judy Davies
It so often happens that you have just got your little one into a lovely day sleep routine, when suddenly they upset the applecart again and begin to resist day sleeps. If this is your experience, maybe you need to adjust your expectations and work with your baby’s new awake times.
Cusp ages – when do they occur and how to know what new routine your baby needs.
When establishing a day sleep routine it is best to be guided by your baby’s ‘Awake times’ as opposed to a rigid schedule. In this way, you will find that your baby will settle easily to sleep and fall into a day sleep pattern with ease. The norms for the length of a baby’s awake times have been tried and tested and are suitable for almost all babies.
Time awake between sleeps
AMOUNT OF SLEEP NEEDED IN 24 HOURS
0 – 6 weeks
18 – 20 hours
6 – 12 weeks
16 – 18 hours
3 – 6 months
1 – 1½ hours
14 – 18 hours
6 – 9 months
14 – 18 hours
9 – 12 months
14 – 16 hours
Understand your baby’s sleep cycles
A sleep cycle is the process of moving from a drowsy state to light sleep, to deep sleep, and then back into light sleep. An adult’s sleep cycle is 90 minutes but it takes a while for a baby to develop such long sleep cycles. Babies’ sleep cycles vary depending on their age. The younger the baby, the shorter the sleep cycle. Most babies’ sleep cycles are no longer than an hour and may be as short as 30 minutes.
A short day sleep may be only one sleep cycle long. At other times in the day (and hopefully at night) the baby ‘links’ sleep cycles to have long stretches of uninterrupted sleep. It is important to help our babies to link sleep cycles.
If your baby is a cat-napper during the day, he will not be fully rested after his sleep and will have difficulty sustaining the normal period of awake time after that sleep and therefore need to sleep sooner. For example, if a baby of 6 months old has slept for only 20 minutes, then he will be tired sooner and need to be put down before his allocated 2-hour awake time expires – i.e. he should have another nap in about 1 – 1½ hours’ time.
At certain times in your baby/ toddler’s life, he may begin to protest about going to sleep during the day. This often happens because he is on the cusp of being able to do without a certain sleep. At these times, the length of the Awake time in the afternoon simply has to be stretched to accommodate bedtime, which will then be adjusted to an earlier time.
These tricky stages (cusp ages) occur around the following times:
9 months – 12 months: Between 6 and 9 months, most babies are having two to three short naps and one longer sleep (depending on how the length of their sleeps). Between 9 months and a year, the shorter late afternoon nap may need to drop away or be shortened if it interferes with your baby settling in the evening. Some babies, however, still need to have a short “power nap” to see them through the evening rituals of bathing, feeding etc. Be sure to wake your baby by 4:30pm if he is having an afternoon nap so that bedtime can be kept between 6 and 7 pm. Towards the end of this stage, this nap will fall away and there will be a longer stretch in the afternoon. When this happens, bring bedtime earlier for a few weeks to help him to adjust.
15 months - 24 months: At a year of age most babies are still having two sleeps a day. But it won’t be long before he starts to resist the early morning sleep (especially if he catches a whiff of activity in the air!) and have one longer sleep instead of two. Shift the morning sleep to 11am, keeping your little one awake for a long stretch in the morning. Give him a good snack or mini lunch at 11am and then straight to sleep. He will probably have a good sleep (1-2 hours). The next stretch to bedtime will be long and your toddler will be exhausted. This can be a tricky time because he can’t really manage with being awake for so long, but won’t settle easily for two sleeps a day.
If your toddler is having a good midday sleep but is exhausted with only one day sleep, move your entire bedtime routine earlier, so that he is asleep by 6pm. Don’t worry about this shortening his night too much – in fact research has shown that early bedtimes promote healthier sleep at night.
On alternate days try to put him down for two sleeps again and move bedtime to a little later again (between 6 and 7pm). Keep at this until he shows you that he doesn’t need an afternoon sleep for a few days in a row.
2 ½ years to 5 years: Depending on your baby, he will drop the day sleep altogether at some stage. When this happens, the chances are that he is not ready to go through the day with no sleep, but has started to fight the day sleep or going to bed in the evening. Keep giving your toddler and preschooler a rest time after lunch, but accept that if he does not fall asleep within the hour, he has just had a rest and has dropped the day sleep for that day. Usually he will have the sleep the next day and drop it again a few days later.
By Meg Faure