Style & ShowbizParenting

Our expert panel answer some of the biggest concerns of Irish parents

A sleeping routine is important
A sleeping routine is important

As a new parent, you’ll take all the advice you can get when it comes to navigating parenthood – which is why our team of experts are at hand to answer some of your biggest concerns.

Q. I am feeling overwhelmed at the thought of weaning my baby, where should I start?

A. Darcy, Galway 

TV Chef and author of the Complete Baby & Toddler Cookbook, Neven Maguire says: 

A: During the first stage of weaning, it’s important to remember that milk is still the most important food for your baby. Solids at this stage are merely ‘first tastes’ and fillers, which should be increased very slowly. And don’t forget that breast or formula milk should still be the main milk drink for the first year.  

When the twins were being weaned, we introduced one new food at a time. We allowed two days in between new foods being introduced and generally gave it to them at their lunch (around 11am) so that we could keep an eye out for any possible reactions. 

Start with one to two teaspoons of baby rice or nice smooth vegetable purée. Over time you can slowly build up the amount of non-milk food given at one feed. When an infant has taken about five teaspoons (or one cube) at lunchtime, add in a second spoon feed at a different time of day. The idea is to gradually build up to two or three spoon feeds per day.  

Aim to give your baby more vegetables than fruit in the early stages of weening, to stop them developing a sweet tooth. Once your baby is happily taking vegetables and fruit purées, it is recommended that you mix in some puréed iron-rich foods, such as meat, fish, well-cooked eggs, beans and lentils. 

Q: Myself and my husband try not to argue in front of our kids but sometimes it happens. I’m afraid we are going to scar the children psychologically but my husband thinks it’s normal to fight every so often with the kids in earshot?

S. Nugent, Bray

David Coleman (davidcoleman.ie), who specialises in working with children, teenagers and their families, says:
A:
“It can be okay to argue in front of your children, as long as the argument or row leads to some sort of resolution so the children get to see the whole process. They get to see that there was a disagreement, they get to see that their parents discussed that disagreement without it becoming overly fraught and that the parents were able to resolve that disagreement between them. That’s a very healthy thing for children to experience, it shows them that we can disagree with someone, we can express our opinion and then we can work it out. 

On the other hand, if it’s a case that the conflict between parents is very bitter or very sustained, then it’s not great for children to be exposed to that because what happens is that children don’t get a sense that this particular conflict is ever going to be fixed and then they feel insecure because they worry that their parents aren’t getting on or they feel that there’s tension in the house, which can be quite distressing for them.

The best thing to do is to sit them down and say, “You heard me and your mammy or your daddy fighting and we were strongly disagreeing about something but what you didn’t get to hear was that we actually managed to work it out later, so we’ve both said that we’re sorry to each other and we’re still friends.” Because I think that’s what children need to know, that you’re still friends and you sorted things out. Children like it when the adults around them are solid and consistent, because the adults are the ones in charge and it’s reassuring that their parents steady the ship.

Q: Regardless of how much I encourage my seven-year-old to sit down and do her homework, there are always tears and tantrums. Most times I end up doing it myself. I don’t know what else to do. 

L. Turner, Kilkenny. 

Career Psychologist and Educational Consultant Sinead Brady says:

A: With homework, it’s so important that you actually give your child the opportunity to do it themselves. You doing their homework for them is of no value in the long run.

Your child needs to take their time in order to reinforce school-based learning at home. 

A really good way to be involved and motivate your child is to have a chat about their homework before they sit down to do it. Take out their journal as you are having dinner and talk out the homework. Communicating to you what they did that day is essentially allowing them to recap what they’ve learned so the information will be fresh in their mind when they being their school work. 

To avoid meltdowns, it’s really important that there is some sort of a break between finishing school and starting homework. If there is a park on the way home from school, break up the day and let your child do some exercise. We now know from research that the more active your child is the better they are able to absorb information, recall information and manage stress. 

Q: I am pregnant with my first child and I’m already anxious over the lack of sleep ahead. How early can I teach my baby a sleeping routine? 

M. Doran, Dublin 

Lucy Wolfe, sleep consultant and author of The Baby Sleep Solution, says:
A:
From as early as six to eight weeks of age, your young baby will begin to smile back at you. This means they are responding to social cues and so a perfect time to begin having a pre-sleep ritual, one that helps them to understand that what happens next is sleep time. This also helps to wind your baby down in advance of sleep and take them from alert to sleepy. 

A sleeping routine is important. Use this ritual before nap time as well: 

  • Dim the lights 
  • Change their nappy and dress them for sleep 
  • Sing a series of songs 
  • Use a certain mantra ”sleep time baby 

If your baby is struggling to sleep, it is a good idea to develop lots of ways of helping them to settle, other than feeding. Support your baby with lots of holding, trying different positions. 

Babies are big fans of motion so rocking them in your arms or safely in swings and seats is ideal. Try not to get stuck with only one way of soothing your baby. The more ways you can calm them, the easier it will be to phase out motion and unconventional sleeping places as your baby gets older. 

Although sleeping through the night won’t come for quite some time and every baby is different, from early on try to make night time exactly that. Night feeds need to remain in the dark so the baby is not stimulated and awoken fully. Keep night-time feeds in the dark and non-stimulating, and ideally keep the night feeds to the bedroom and avoid changing the location.