How to Wean Your Child Off a Pacifier

If your child never took to his pacifier, consider yourself lucky. You see, it is no easy task to break the pacifier habit. Pacifiers, or binkies as they are often called, appeal to a baby’s natural instinct to suckle for comfort. They serve many babies well, soothing them in their fussiest hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends them as a method of combating SIDS in very young infants. They do, however, have something of an acceptability shelf life. At a year old, many pediatricians recommend kicking the binky habit because using it past a year can lead to dental or speech difficulties down the road. What is now such a great help can become quite a hindrance, which means that you should put an end to pacifier dependence at some point. Of course, there is no way to explain this to your one year old. Instead, you’ll have to employ a method that allows you to wean your baby from his binky.

Cold Turkey

The first method you can try is cold turkey. Gather up all the pacifiers in the house, ensuring there are none stashed in toys or hidden behind crib bumpers, and see how it goes. Sometimes, believe it or not, this works without a hitch. The reason this can work is that children really have no need to suck once they turn a year old, so if they are not emotionally dependent on the pacifier they might just forget about it. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s worth a shot.

Three Day Method

If your baby was not receptive to kicking the paci habit cold turkey, try the three day method. This works particularly well for children who are a bit older. With this technique, you tell your child on the first day that you can see how big he is getting and how you know he wants to be a big kid. Then, you tell him that you want him to try to give up his binky in three days. Say this matter-of-factly and come across as happy and excited as you break this news. Then, on the second day, tell your child again that tomorrow is the “big day.”  Tell him this twice on the second day. On the third and final day, engage your child in a scavenger hunt to collect all the binkies in the house and explain that they will be recycled and made into new toys. You might even want to go and get your child a toy after this so that he can feel like his binky is still with him in a new form. With this method you are supposed to stay positive and follow through, even if your child protests. The theory behind this is that your child will get used to the idea gradually and that it should not take longer than 48 hours for your child to get over his loss after the third day.

Cutting Down

If you prefer to remove the pacifier more slowly, you can utilize the cutting down method. First, make sure the pacifier is not available all the time. In fact, you should start keeping the binkies up in a high cabinet out of the child’s sight. When your child does not need the binky because he is not in any distress, keep it away from him. If he asks for it, see if you can distract him with something else. This is a great time to break out a new toy or play a new game. Try to only give the pacifier to your child in times of great distress and to sleep. Then, only provide it when it’s time for your little one to go to sleep. Your child will slowly get used to not having the pacifier using this method. If you switch up the daily routine when you start using the cutting down method, it makes it even easier for your child to accept. Because the child’s routine is different, he will not be associating certain times of the day with the binky – everything will be new. When it comes time to give up the binky at bedtime, you might want to introduce a new blanket or stuffed animal to sleep with, or a musical toy for his crib.

The “Who, Me?” Method

If you want an even sneakier method, you can try putting pin holes in your child’s binkies. Be sure the pin is sterile and that it is only the tiniest hole near the base of the rubber. If you put very tiny pinholes in the binkies, he won’t get the satisfaction from sucking since the bulb won’t be as full of air. Your child may then think it is broken or that he no longer likes it and simply stop using it on his own. You will get none of blame for the loss of the binky when you use this method.

In the end, while it is preferable for your baby to give up his pacifier before he makes an emotional connection to it, it should not be a cause for great stress. After all, most kids will willingly give it up by the age of three or four. Since children are developing new coping skills all the time, they could very well wind up giving up the binky on their own, naturally. Because your child has to give up so many other things around the same time, such as nursing and/or his bottle and his diapers, depriving him of his pacifier may just be too much for him if he is overly attached to it as a comfort object. If this is the case, expert pediatricians like Dr. Karen Breach of North Carolina say it is okay for the pacifier to be the last thing that falls to the wayside.

Are Nannies Entitled to Benefits?

When you hire a private, in-home childcare provider for the first time, you’re likely to have a variety of questions and a fair bit of confusion regarding what you’re required to provide and how to be fully compliant with employment laws, especially in terms of benefits like health insurance, paid vacation, paid sick days and retirement savings plans. It’s not always easy to know where your obligations end and where best industry practices take over.

Many employers of permanent, full-time household workers understand that offering a competitive benefits package will help them to attract and retain the best domestic employees in their local pool, especially when it comes to nannies. These employers make a point of offering health coverage contributions, generous paid leave and other benefits to reduce turnover and to maintain a level of consistency within their home. While this is a common practice, nanny employers living within the United States are not required to provide such benefits under federal law.

Understand the Tax Benefits of Offering Health Insurance

For families that are fully compliant with state and federal employment taxes, the idea of adding an additional financial burden by partially contributing to or paying their nannies’ health insurance premiums in full may be slightly repellent. In addition to the reduced turnover, lower chances of burnout and higher work performance perks that come along with providing a competitive benefits package, however, comes the ability to enjoy some valuable tax breaks each year. Because some of those paid contributions, like contributions towards health insurance premiums, are not treated as taxable income to the employee, you won’t be required to pay employment taxes on the contributions either.

It’s worth noting, however, that you will be required to extend those same benefits to all of your employees, which can become a sticky situation if you’re also paying a housekeeper or other domestic staff that you don’t intend to provide coverage for.

Reasons to Consider Offering Competitive Benefits

When your nanny enjoys the security that comes with having reliable access to preventative healthcare, she’s far more likely to take advantage of it. As a result, you may actually find that your contributions pay for themselves in the form of a healthier, happier nanny that’s less likely to call in sick due to preventable illnesses.

When there’s a strong benefits package included with your nanny’s compensation, she’s also less likely to change jobs abruptly. Paid vacation time, paid sick leave and even annual or quarterly performance bonuses are all great ways to sweeten the pot for your nanny, helping to retain her services. In the end, you may find that providing a healthy set of benefits as part of a strong compensation package actually costs less than dealing with regular turnover, downtime and lost work time on your part for the hiring and training process.

Among the benefits frequently offered to full-time nannies, paid holidays, vacation and sick days top the list of the most common. Reimbursement for the use of a personal vehicle or use of a work vehicle, health insurance premium contributions, education reimbursement and access to health club or gym membership are also relatively common. Before you decide to pay your nanny a flat, under-the-table rate that includes no additional benefits, it’s wise to carefully consider whether or not you’d like to find yourself competing against families in your area who do offer these benefits for the best available childcare providers.

The Nanny Contract and Employment Benefits

The nanny contract is a written work agreement that governs your professional relationship with your nanny, and is one of the most important documents you can have on hand when it comes to preventing disputes borne of misunderstanding. There’s no confusion when the benefits package that you’re willing to extend is documented, and both you and your nanny are able to easily understand what’s expected of everyone involved. Neglecting to draw up a nanny contract may save you a bit of time at the outset of your relationship, but it can be a real lifesaver if there’s ever a dispute or a misconception about the sort of benefits that your nanny is entitled to under your agreement.

In the end, your nanny isn’t technically entitled to any benefits outside of fair compensation and tax compliance under federal law. However, while you’re not required to provide health insurance, paid sick time or vacation days, doing so can make it much easier to get and retain the best possible care for your children.

Solutions to Typical Issues Moms Have While Potty Training

By Marcia Hall

Potty training is easily one of the most talked about events in the life of a toddler, yet it is often cause for great concern and stress among parents. Despite the hundreds of books and videos telling you the “simple” way to potty train your child, the majority of children learn to use the toilet without much difficulty when they are truly ready to train. However, some parents and toddlers find overcoming this milestone to be quite challenging. If you find yourself or your child in that group, here are a few typical issues that you might be facing and some workable solutions to them.

My child does not seem to care if his diaper or pants are wet. It is very rare for a child to simply decide on his own that he does not like the feeling of a wet diaper. After all, this is what he has known from infancy, and changing that attitude takes time. You can frequently suggest with words and actions that he might feel better if his diaper was dry. Slowly he will come around when he is ready. If your child is in underpants and has frequent accidents but does not seem bothered by this, it might be a defense mechanism that he has created so that he will not feel bad about wetting himself. By pretending it did not happen, he might be hoping it will go away. However, it could also be a sign he is not emotionally ready for underpants.

My child is afraid to use the toilet especially outside of the home. Toilets seem huge to a small child. In the home it is easy enough to use toilet seat inserts with fun and colorful characters. However, venturing out into the public can be worrisome for parents, caregivers and the child. They do make foldable inserts that can be placed into a diaper bag or a large purse, however while your child is training the best thing you can do is be right by his side while he faces the scary task of going potty on a big toilet. If auto-flush toilets are the culprit of your child’s fear of toilets, you can assist him by placing your hand or a sticky note over the sensor. This will stop the auto-flush until your child can safely get off of the potty. With practice, this frightening task will get easier.

My child just can’t make it all the way to the potty. Children tend to play hard and will often wait until the very last minute to run to the toilet. Because of this, they will often not make it to the bathroom in time. When a child has just recently been potty trained, or you notice this is happening more often, you should frequently remind your child to stop and think about if he has to use the toilet. If it is a real problem, set a timer for every 20 minutes and ask your child to stand up and listen to his body when the timer goes off. There is no need to make him try to use the potty every 20 minutes, as that will not help train his body to hold urine. However, asking him to stand still will help him to feel if he needs to go.

My child just won’t poop on the toilet. It is very common for children, especially boys, to learn to pee on the toilet before they learn to poop there. Pooping into the toilet tends to be a very private event and usually takes longer to master than peeing into it. You can help the experience by making the bathroom a fun place for him to be. Put some of his favorite books in a basket or purchase a special toy or two for him to use only while he is pooping. It might help him if you sit with him for a little while, however often what children need is time alone in the bathroom.

My child is completely potty trained while he is awake, but still pees while he is asleep. Most children will not sleep potty train at the same time as they will day potty train. During the day, it is easy to feel the sensations the body gives telling you it is time to go. However, at night those same sensations are slower to be felt because a lot of children sleep very soundly. If this is an ongoing problem you should talk to your doctor. She will look for other symptoms that might suggest a bigger problem. Most likely time is all that is needed. Many children are not able to feel this sensation at night until they are around 8 years of age. Use nighttime underpants and covers to protect the mattress and under no circumstances should you make your child to feel guilty about his accidents. There is nothing he can do differently to stop them and the more guilty he feels the more frequent these accidents will happen. This does not mean that you cannot talk to your child about the night wetting. It simply means that you should stay positive and focused on the fact that someday he will be able to stay dry. Until then, he can use the tools to protect his bed, blankets and stuffed animals.

My child seems to have to go every 20 minutes when we are out or in the car. There are a few things you can do to help both your child and yourself in this situation. The first is to be sure to go potty just before you get in the car and when you make stops.  The second is to limit drinks while traveling and to stick with water. This will cut down on the child’s physical need to go. You can also consider using disposable underpants for traveling, especially during long distances. Be sure to bring extra sets of clothing if you have found this to be a problem. To help your child build up a tolerance, start with shorter trips or more frequent stops. Ask your child to wait five minutes and if he can do that, next time ask him to wait 10. If your child has to go every 20 minutes or less all the time, it is likely that his body is not yet ready for potty training.

While potty training is a big milestone in your child’s life, it does not have to be a stressful one. Don’t push or shame your child into using the toilet, but instead encourage and celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

Signs Your Nanny Boss May Be Dealing With Postpartum Depression

Nannies who work for mothers of young babies — whether it’s the mother’s first child or not — have a lot to deal with. In addition to the feeding and sleeping schedules, nannies need to keep an eye out for things like postpartum depression in the mother. It’s a common problem, but one that doesn’t have to go untreated. If you’ve noticed the symptoms in your nanny boss, don’t be afraid to broach the subject with her and ask if she needs help.

Every mother feels a multitude of emotions after the birth of a baby. It’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed, anxious and irritable, and it’s natural to have some baby blues. If those feelings become exaggerated and all-encompassing, however, it’s possible that the mother may be suffering from postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a treatable disorder characterized by frequent and intense negative thoughts and feelings about oneself or one’s baby. It affects 10%-20% of new mothers, and it usually begins within the first few months after birth. PPD is thought to be a combination of physical, psychological and environmental influences. Symptoms of PPD include feelings of depression, worthlessness, guilt, panic, hopelessness, anger, inability to focus, mood swings, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, insomnia, appetite changes, physical illnesses and thoughts of harming oneself or one’s baby. If one suspects PPD, a medical professional needs to be consulted to diagnose and prescribe treatment for the disorder.

Factors that put a person at risk for PPD include a history of mental illness, acute depression and anxiety while pregnant, early childhood abuse or trauma, a dysfunctional family, an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, recent separation or divorce, an unsupportive spouse or partner, low self-esteem, significant changes such as a recent move or death of a loved one, complications with the pregnancy or birth, a baby or other child that is difficult to care for and PPD with a previous child.

If a mother is experiencing or is at risk for PPD, it is important that she take care of herself and ask for support. Mothers need to ensure their own basic needs are met, including getting adequate rest, eating a healthy diet, engaging in gentle exercise and making time for themselves. They need support from loved ones, a therapist and/or a support group, who will listen to and not judge them. Mothers need to set boundaries, to try not to feel guilty about their depression or negative feelings and to focus on recovery. Medication may be necessary to bring the depression under control. While there is not a lot of research available on the effects of antidepressants on pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is generally agreed that the benefits outweigh any risks. A physician will be able to give advice about appropriate antidepressants, and should always be consulted before taking any medications while pregnant or breastfeeding.

PPD is a serious illness. It robs the mother of finding joy in her child and interferes with her ability to bond with and care for her baby. It also puts excessive stress on the mother, her family and her relationships. Some research suggests that PPD may lead to developmental delays and behavioral problems for the child. In extreme cases it can lead to a mother hurting herself or the baby. This behavior may stem from an unrealistic belief that she is an inadequate parent, as illustrated in this news article.

If you suspect your employer is suffering from PPD, it is important to remain supportive, reassuring and nonjudgmental. Encourage the mother to seek help from loved ones, medical professionals and support groups, such as Postpartum Support International. While you’re caring for the baby, encourage the mother to relax. You may wish to light a scented a candle, put on soothing music, prepare a warm bath, invite the mother on a walk with the baby, encourage her to do yoga or read an uplifting book. If you’re comfortable, ask how her treatment is progressing and offer to be an empathetic listener. Be alert to signs that the mother may harm herself or child, including intense bouts of depression, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and acting angry or indifferent toward the baby. It’s a good idea to set an emergency plan in advance. For example, obtain written permission to remove the baby and any other children from a situation you deem dangerous. Keep emergency contact numbers handy.

As a nanny, simply being a safe, supportive caretaker for a child will offer a huge amount of support to all involved and will greatly assist the mother on her road to recovery.

What to Consider Before Installing a Nanny Cam

If you’re a parent who leaves her child home alone with a nanny, you’ve probably thought about installing a nanny camera to check in and see how your nanny is doing – and what she’s doing – throughout the day. Even when a nanny has gone through the interview and reference stage and has passed a background check, it’s still hard to fully trust she’s going to take great care of your child. A nanny camera can give you the peace of mind you’re looking for. However, it’s not a simple yes or no choice. Installing a nanny camera can have negative consequences. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding if it’s the right choice for you.

Do you have serious doubts about the care your child is receiving? Some parents feel very comfortable with their nanny’s quality of care and simply want reassurance that their child is doing fine during the day when they’re not there. Other parents seriously suspect their nanny is harming or neglecting their child and want proof before they take action. If you have real concerns for your child’s safety, you should take action with or without video proof. Yes, you may be jumping the gun, but there’s nothing more important than protecting your child. Too many parents have set up nanny cams only to see their nanny abusing their child. If you have serious concerns, don’t give your nanny another opportunity to hurt your child.

Have you talked with your nanny about the use of nanny cams? Nanny cams are a sensitive subject to nannies. Trust within the nanny/family relationship is essential to long term success and hidden cameras often erode that trust. If you’re planning on using cameras, consider talking with your nanny about it first. This may seem counterintuitive since the idea is to record her acting as she would if she didn’t know she was being recorded. However if your nanny finds your hidden camera, you run the very real risk that she’ll quit or that your relationship with her will be seriously harmed. You don’t need to tell the nanny exactly where the cameras are or when you’ll be recording. Most nannies simply want a simple heads up that you may be recording them.

What are your goals for the nanny cam? Before you choose to install a nanny cam, think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to check in and see what your kids are up to during the day? Do you want to keep tabs on how much your nanny is interacting with your child? Do you want to see how much downtime your nanny has while your child is sleeping or playing? Why you want the camera is a good indicator as to how well it will work for you. If you’re a new mom who’s recently returned to work and really wants to see and hear your baby while you’re at work, a streaming camera could help ease the ache of the separation. If you’re a parent who has the tendency to micromanage your nanny’s activities, a streaming camera could turn out to be a huge distraction for you. Think about why you want a camera and choose the type and location of the camera based on what you want to gain from the experience.

Are there things best left unseen? Your nanny isn’t perfect. She’s also not a carbon copy of you and will do many things in her own way. So before you record and watch her, ask yourself how you’ll react when she does things differently than you would. While you probably know this happens, you may not know all of the details. After watching her, though, you will know the details, and they can be hard to let go for some people. Maybe your nanny lets your child play with his food more than you would, or maybe your nanny lets your child get frustrated while he tries to figure out how to grab an out of reach toy when you would save him the frustration and push the toy closer. All nannies do things that don’t lower the quality of care they provide but still bug their employers. If you’re the type of person who has a hard time letting those things go, a nanny cam could be very hard on your nanny/parent relationship.

Installing a nanny camera is a very personal decision. For some parents it’s a good choice and can be helpful. For other parents, it just serves as a distraction and a thorn in the side of the employment relationship. Before you install a camera, think about if it will help or hurt your situation.

How to Handle it when Your Child Won’t Sleep in the Dark

By Marcia Hall

Every child has their own unique sensitivities. One child may act shy when introduced to new people, while another child may dislike getting dirty. If your child is sensitive to darkness, you can rest assured that she is not alone.

Sensitivity to darkness is often thought of as a fear, and can easily become a fear when children’s emotions about being in and sleeping in the dark are not taken seriously. This issue can stem from many things. Educators commonly note that children who have an apprehension of the dark tend to be very creative, free thinkers. It may be that this creative thinking starts working overtime when darkness hits, causing the child to imagine the worst. There are a few things you can do to help calm the tension.

Accept it. The most harmful thing you can do to a child that shows fear of the dark is to tell her that she has nothing to fear. It may be unlikely that bad things would actually happen in her room; however, she feels this fear very strongly. When the people that she loves and trusts the most ignore this fear and act as if it’s trivial, she then has even more to be afraid of.

Validate her concern. You certainly don’t want to scare her, but you can ask her to tell you exactly what she thinks might happen when the lights turn off. She may not want to or be able to tell you right away, but with consistent gentle care you may be able to get her to open up about her concerns. Note that even if she does open up and share some great big fear, simply telling her that it will not happen is unlikely to do much to alleviate her fear of the dark. Her sensitivity may get better, but it is likely to remain for some time and possibly be replaced by yet another concern. Remember that children who fear the dark tend to be very observant and have great memories. They may always find something to worry about.

Reassure her. Let her know that even though there are scary things in the world, you have worked hard to create a safe place for her in your home and in her room. While you can’t really promise that nothing bad will ever happen to her, you can reassure her that you are there for her and will do everything in your power to protect her and make sure she is safe. Let her know that if she ever needs you, she can call on you. Then back it up by responding to her needs, because she will test you.

Keep the room clutter free. Often times, the thing that scares children the most at night in their rooms are all the clothes, toys and other things that create shadows and become unrecognizable in the dark. You can help create a comfortable place by cleaning up clutter before bedtime. Hang clothes in a closed closet, make sure artwork is in frames that are secured to the wall and put toys away at night.

Use light. It is likely you have tried using a night-light if you have a child that is afraid of the dark. Sometimes, however, that makes things worse because most night-lights cast unpleasant shadows on the wall. You might want to try a small lamp with a very low watt bulb instead. Another idea is to give her a small flashlight. These solutions might be a problem if she shares a room with other children. If she is given a flashlight, be sure to give very specific rules about the use of it.

There are some products that are made for children who hate the dark, like a button the child can push to light up an object that will then turn itself off after a certain amount of time.  Whatever the solution, the important thing is to keep trying new options and to involve your child in the problem solving process. Multiple options will likely be necessary.

Children who fear the dark normally outgrow their fear, but there are many adults who still hate darkness because of negative experiences from childhood. Remember that being afraid of the dark is common and is a sign of a creative and bright thinker. Some day that same imagination will take her great places.