Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits in Infants

Guest Blog Post By Dr. Nicky Cohen and Dr. Pamela Mitelman


Sleep – or the lack of it – is a popular topic amongst parents. Sleep challenges are common in infancy and are among the top 5 parental concerns reported to physicians. Common sleep problems include bedtime difficulties, frequent night wakings, early morning wakings, and napping problems. While there is so much information available to parents through self-help books and on the Internet, it can be confusing as to which advice to follow.


Below are some guidelines to help you establish healthy sleep habits for your baby.


Falling asleep independently: Babies who are at least 3 months of age can start to learn to fall asleep on their own. Learning this life-long sleep skill is associated with falling asleep more quickly, as well as better night sleep and naps. While the window of opportunity to learn how to fall asleep independently does not close, the earlier a child is given the opportunity to learn, the quicker and easier the process can be.


Optimal Sleep Environment: A good sleep environment for a child is important in setting the stage for good sleep. This includes a dark and quiet room, and a temperature on the cool side of comfortable. Low-level white or pink noise (a constant and even sound) can help block noise and can be soothing for a young child. Ensure that the white or pink noise is not too loud in a child’s room (aim for 30-40 decibels) and is as far away from the crib as possible. Moderate-level white or pink noise can also be used in a hallway to help block household noise.


Safe Sleep Environment: Practice safe sleep for every sleep period (day and night). According to Canadian Pediatric Society and Health Canada safe guidelines, the back to sleep position is associated with a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, according to these guidelines, once a baby can get to another position (side or tummy) on his or her own, they do not need to be repositioned. Due to the risk of safety concerns, most notably suffocation, always ensure that there are no soft materials in your child’s crib. If a second layer of clothing is needed in the cooler months, a sleep sack is a recommended alternative to a loose blanket.  


Consistent Bedtime and Naptime Routine: A consistent and predictable bedtime routine is an important step in establishing good sleep habits. A bedtime routine cues to a child that bedtime is approaching and prepares the body for sleep. A routine for a baby may include a bath, getting dressed, a bedtime feed, cleaning gums/teeth, and a song and/or a book. The end of the routine should take place in the child’s room in low-level lighting. A shorter nap routine such as a diaper change, sleep sack (if needed), and song can also be helpful.


Age Appropriate Sleep Schedule: Ensure that your baby is on the right sleep schedule for his or her age. By 3-4 months of age, many infants are sleeping 11-12 hours at night. Night feeds are usually needed until a baby is 6-8 months of age (unless the baby has dropped his or her night feeds). Most infants are napping 3 times a day by 4 months of age. It is common for the third nap to be dropped between 7-8 months of age. Make sure to keep your baby awake for long enough between naps. The time that your infant spends awake between naps varies throughout infancy and these wakeful windows increasewith age. Keeping a baby awake long enough before a nap helps to ensure that he or she is tired enough when put down. See the table below for guidelines for daytime wake windows for infants.


Daytime Wake Windows





0-3 months

Varies Widely

4-6 months

2 hours

2.5 hours

2.5 hours

6-9 months

2-2.5 hours

2.5-3 hours

2.5-3 hours

9-12 months

2.5-3 hours

3-3.5 hours

Not Applicable


Pleasant dreams!



Dr. Nicky Cohen is a Registered Psychologist in private practice in Toronto. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from York University and developed an interest in parenting issues related to children’s sleep disturbances after having her first child. She is active in the community disseminating information on healthy sleep practices and increasing awareness of the importance of making sufficient sleep a family priority. Dr. Cohen’s book PARENTING YOUR CHILD TO SLEEP is now available in Kindle ebook format and paperback on Amazon.


Dr. Pamela Mitelman is a Montreal based Licensed Clinical Psychologist working in private practice. She received her Psy.D. from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Her interest in pediatric sleep disturbances was peeked while assessing children for learning difficulties and was further solidified after having children of her own. Dr. Mitelman is passionate about educating families on the importance of healthy sleep practices.



The information provided by Dr. Cohen and Dr. Mitelmanis not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Individuals are encouraged to speak with a physician or other health care provider if they have concerns regarding their child’s sleep and before starting any treatment plan. The information provided by Dr. Cohen and Dr. Mitelmanis provided with the understanding that they are not rendering clinical, counselling, or other professional services or advice. Such information is intended solely as a general educational aid and not for any individual problem. It is also not intended as a substitute for professional advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique facts.


Guest blog post by: Andrea Page, Fitmom Fitness

We can also talk until we are blue in the face, but if we do not have practical solutions for dealing with mental health in real time, talk is yes very cheap. Why do I believe maternal mental health is the benchmark for a healthy society? Simple. 90% of the time a mother is the one providing the fundamental nurturance for infant and toddlers in the time their brains are being wired and developed most.

When we neglect mothers we neglect society.

I did my first media piece on mental health and motherhood 15 years ago on than CITY TV. I was actually in the thick of it. I told half truths and was still banging on doors for help. I was working myself to the bone caring for other mothers and barely sleeping and to be frank was a complete mess most of the time ( but a very good actress ). I lived with shame and guilt. Parented poorly. Did not really know how to ask for the right kind of help. This is a cycle in my family passed down and will share more at a later date. I talked and talked about mental health publicly for years and than I really just stopped. I was tired of stating the obvious and preaching to what felt like the wrong people….. mothers.

After Bell Lets Talk along with a very disastrous mile stone in my families mental health this month, I am opening up again, but with the goal to not just talk but offer tangible solutions and shed valuable insight on improving our collective mental health. I will not be sharing all of my thoughts and insight here but on my personal facebook Andrea Fitmom Page and you are welcome to add me or follow me if this interest you.

I also am available for coaching on how to address with practical measurable changes in addressing acute situations with mothers, children and teens and have caregivers, teachers, principles and parents contact me for advocacy often to help create plans that actually help people without depending on the system that is very broken. You must empower your mental health and that of those you love. There is no quick fix. You have to do the work.

Lastly I will leave you with my post from today on Facebook, and invite you to join me:

“So I have decided to attempt to talk about mental health everyday and back it up with meaningful education and actions you can take for yourself and those around you. A huge corporation that gouges Canadians playing on the vulnerabilities of peoples stories when they have a known track record of not dealing with their own employees mental health does not fly. They ploy us to do their marketing for them for a massive tax right off and does not make a real dent in my opinion. Its about changing us. Our responses. It is about social education. It is not about depending on a broken system.

So day 1.

I have debilitating depression and anxiety that I have learned over time to manage most often and continue to heal the underlying issues. Sometimes my mental health effects my ability to show up for my children and my clients. THERE ARE ALWAYS UNDERLYING ISSUES. You cannot talk about MENTAL HEALTH without talking about trauma current and trans-generational. In fact talk really is cheap. It is good to have someone to talk too but to get the tools to manage a panic attack in real time is essential to helping growth and productivity. The very first thing I would suggest is to recognize there is no easy way out. You MUST DO THE WORK. Hard yes if depression is a factor. Double check if you are surrounding yourself with people strong enough to hold you accountable with love. There can be a cycle of poor decision making when we are suffering the most that feeds the cycle. That is a pattern. You need loving people to challenge you to manage your self care properly. Own your patterns with self love and compassion and commitment to doing better each day. This week I am running a self care challenge that I will run again in a couple weeks. Improving your mental health is about developing self awareness. It is about sharpening your tool kit. It is about fighting back when it knocks you down.”

Each moment is a chance,

Andrea  xo

About Andrea Page, Fitmom Fitness:

In 1999 I became pregnant with my first child I had very little support and I was not prepared for the immense responsibility and stress that accompanies motherhood.

Mothering did not come naturally to me. Like most of us, my reality was often at odds with the glamorized version perpetuated by North American media. I bought into the idea of ‘Supermom’ thinking that if I worked hard to ‘do it all’, I would indeed become one. I was wrong; I often felt isolated and cut off from my community and, it turns out, I wasn’t alone. The experience of raising three sons and training over 50,000 women has taught me that mothering in seclusion is not a healthy option. Community is the key to improving a sense of balance and strength in mothering.

Over the years, my story and what is now called “Andrea Pages Original FITMOM™” programs have inspired women to prioritize their self-care and encouraged women to work together to build community. These values are echoed in every FITMOM™ original class and city that our programs are offered. We encourage our members to strive for balance in their daily lives and we assist them in reaching their personal health and wellness goals. Our ultimate goal is to create a community in which mothers and families can thrive.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for life with your new baby, is to learn about the little (and big) things you can do now, to help baby proof your relationships. I say relationships, because it’s not just about partners. Strained relationship with in-laws or other family members, introducing a new baby to older siblings, and well meaning (but not always requested) input and advices from family members, over stepping or not stepping up, understanding and setting boundaries etc. etc. etc.. The addition of a baby changes the dynamics, and no matter how strong your relationships are, things will be different.

Unmet (or even unspoken) expectations are frustrating and can lead to resentment. The sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, and requirement to be on parenting duty (All. The. Time.) are just a few of the stressors that can weigh on us. Often parenting styles aren’t discussed before baby is already on the scene. In one of our recent Mom & Baby classes, 90% of the moms said they still hadn’t talked with their partners about parenting topics such as, discipline tactics, or how they would handle disagreements in front of their child.

Romantic bliss can take a hit when a new demanding little customer shows up in your family. The reality is that your partnership is the foundation of that family, and in order to provide the best environment for your new bundle, you have to re-invest in your relationship with your partner. Just like financial investing, it matters where and how, you choose to invest. The addition of a child is one of the BIGGEST tests to your romantic relationship (I won’t even tell you how many people have confided in me that they have felt like punching their partner in the throat – Jokingly of course, but their frustration and resentment is REAL).

These are the reasons why I have decided that adding the relationships piece to prenatal planning is so important. If you are expecting a baby (not only for first time parents), please join us Sunday June 3rd for our Midtown Mommy-To-Be: Prenatal Workshop, to cover some of the things that traditional prenatal prep classes often leave out. Our prenatal workshop includes some extra time at the end to socialize, or to chat with our experts, so that you can leave feeling empowered and supported.

Parenting educator, and life & professional coach, Liz Berholz of Liz B Parenting, will be joining us for the Baby Proofing Your Relationships portion of our prenatal workshop. Liz works with families and individuals to help them discover their ability to create homes and lives filled with mutual respect, understanding, cooperation, connection, responsibility and fun. She helps them uncover their gifts and strengths to create effective change and live lives filled with their deepest dreams of success.

Guest blog post by: Ishtar Gabriel, Child & Family Therapist

Becoming a new parent is one of the most life altering events you will experience and requires a huge amount of learning, surrendering, exploring, growing and discovering. It is like starting a new job without any training or manual. All the other employees have been around forever and seem to think it is their sole purpose in life to tell you how to do your work but none of them are staying after hours to get their project done. Parenting can feel lonely and overwhelming, and yet once you find your way, it can be the most amazing journey ever traveled. So here are our tips to help you find your way as you start your new job:

Let go of expectations
Wow this is a big one! This is one of the most anticipated events of your life. This can be a scary and exciting process. Expectations and plans help us make sense of the unknown—and a new baby is uncharted territory. But when plans don’t go as we expect it is hard to adjust and enjoy the moment for what it is—not what we expected it to be. Just being aware of our expectations is a step in the right direction. I was expecting the baby to sleep longer, I was expecting to breastfeed, I was expecting a girl. Exploring ways to feel safe and supported will help you to stay open to the new possibilities on your parenting journey.

Parenting is a process not a destination
Before baby even arrives most parents have read all the right books, registered their child for mommy and me classes, decorated the room, researched the best diapers, taken lessons on how to push and open the stroller and started making homemade organic baby food. We cannot “parent” until the baby arrives and we really have no idea what is going to be expected of us until we get to meet our baby. You cannot start your job until you arrive at your office or receive your first project. So expertise—-parenting expertise just like work expertise—develops over time. It means you are going to make mistakes and you are not going to do it all—-and definitely not perfectly. Becoming a skilled and confident parent takes practice, time and conscious effort. So meet the baby first and then start your journey together.

Try not to compare
Every child is unique and comes pre-package with their own personality, likes, and mannerisms. You are unique and that means the relationship between you and your child is unique. A healthy and thriving relationship between you and your child requires a deep understanding of yourself and your child and develops as a result of exploring and becoming curious about who you are and who your child is becoming. Comparing your child to those of others forces us to focus on what our child cannot do verses what they can do and we miss the things that make them unique. This is what Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfecting Parenting” refers to as scarcity. Scarcity is the idea that we are not enough. The way to combat scarcity is to practice gratitude–appreciating things exactly as they are—trusting everything is exactly as it needs to be. Your child’s self esteem and self-worth will thank you for it. And you will become a more confident, loving and grounded parent.

Have fun
Have fun you say when you are knee deep in puke and poop. One of the best ways to laugh about your new experiences is to call another mom friend that you trust and share your story, keep a journal or video tape the chaos. It might not seem or look funny in the moment but it will become funny days or even weeks later…..okay who are we fooling it might take years to appreciate the humour. The point is to not take yourself too seriously. Children have survived for centuries with much less. According to Judith Warner of Perfect Madness we are the most educated mothers to date and tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”. We will never be perfect but we can be enough and exactly what our children need us to be. So remind yourself of this mantra next time things seem totally out of control, progress not perfection.

The love affair evolves
As you get into a routine (however chaotic of a routine this might seem—especially for all you type As) and you get a handle on feeding, sleeping and showering and begin to distinguish day from night you will begin to have time to see, feel, smell, hold, play and laugh with your baby. This is when the love affair begins. So don’t worry if you are just not feeling “the love at first sight”. These things take time. Love evolves and grows. You will fall in love with your baby as time evolves.

Remember motherhood is a journey not a destination. Measure your progress not your perfection. Acknowledge the things you did get done and you did do well—even if it is simply stopping to look at your baby for a few minutes in the business of the day. Motherhood if done with self awareness, self care and deep dedication and love means you will evolve and grow right along side your new bundle of joy.


Ishtar Gabriel – MSc, OACCPP – Child and Family Therapist – – Specializing in potty training and toddler sleep solutions, mother guilt / shame, finding balance, and marital tensions.

Guest Blog Post: Ishtar Gabriel, Child and Family Therapist

Panic struck, and my anxiety went through the roof, when my daughter Sophia (now 8) turned 2.

I remember questioning everything I was doing, and never felt sure of myself. One day I would be firm, and the next day I would use reward charts. I was losing my mind. She wouldn’t sleep, she wouldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes, she never said “okay” or “yes”. I was yelling and crying, she was running all around at nap time, she smeared her poo on walls to make murals. What happened to my baby?

I remember locking myself into the bathroom to get away from her (funny now). I was confused, foggy, tired, scared, angry—disheartened. This was not what I thought motherhood would be like. Thankfully, I was seeing a therapist at the time who provided amazing emotional support, and I began to get out all my old psychology books on child development to get more informed. Slowly but surely I began to find my way…..find my lioness.

Mothers use to be surrounded by a village. Have a community of women to turn to. Mothers use to knock on their neighbours door to borrow sugar or have a coffee. Today we mother more and more in isolation and shame—with no manual and no one to turn to for guidance and support—-we are forced to build our own village. Motherhood today takes balls—it requires we stand up and say without same or guilt “I have no fucking clue how to do this. I need help and support and I deserve it.”

Our voices are being heard and our needs met, as doulas, sleep trainers, midwives, nannies begin to emerge and become mainstream. The area that still requires support and information is toddlerhood. The time of the cave child. Probably the toughest of all the phases I have experienced so far (and that isn’t saying much since my children are just 6 and 8), but definitely the phase I have come to understand deeply and passionately.

As a child and family therapist I have come to focus on helping parents get through the toddler years, by providing information and support about sleeping, toilet training, child development, shame and guilt of motherhood, marital tension, balancing work and home life, grieving life before kids, discovering and embracing your own unique values and beliefs about what it means to be a mom. I have come to coin what I do as “toddler training”.

I provide moms with information and support on their mother journey so they can carve out their own unique path and grow strong, confident and secure in their new and life long role as a mother. I help moms find their lioness.

I am mama hear me roar.

Ishtar Gabriel BA, MSc, OACCPP
Child and Family Therapist / 905 515 2788 /

Services are done in office or by phone, and can be bought in packages (potty and sleep), or hourly (mother guilt/shame, finding balance, marital tension)


Guest blog post by: Vivian Yau, Smile Speech Therapy 

Before babies can even talk, they are communicating with you through many other ways. Here are some helpful tips for how to stimulate and support the development of your little communication partner at an early age.

Pay attention to and respond to your baby’s cries, sounds, facial expressions, body movements, and actions. Remember to get face-to-face with your baby so he or she can see your face and mouth and you can observe how they are responding.

IMG_1225Use “motherese” or infant-directed speech when talking to your young baby. That means using a higher pitch than normal, simplified words, and an exaggerated musical quality to your talking. Think of how complete strangers will come up to you and naturally lower themselves to your baby’s level and speak to your baby in that singsong manner: “You are such a cute baby! Look at that smile!”. Studies show that speaking to babies in this manner is better for getting your baby to pay attention to you and stay engaged and interested.

IMG_1224Take turns with your baby by copying his or her coos, sounds, and babbles. Pretty soon you will be having back and forth “conversations” with your little one and really showing them the power of speech.

Lastly, be aware of what to expect of your child’s communication skills at different ages to make sure he or she is on-track. An online checklist for communication milestones can be found at:

**For a free phone consultation about your child’s speech and language skills, call me at (416)488-7807 and mention Mommy Connections. I look forward to hearing from you!

image1Vivian Yau,
Speech-Language Pathologist and Clinical Director at Smile Speech Therapy


image1Vivian is a mother of 3 young boys with 14 years of experience helping children improve their speech and language skills. She is the founder of a new private practice called Smile Speech Therapy which provides in-home or in-clinic (Bayview/Eglinton) speech and language services to children in Toronto and the surrounding area. For more information, please visit

Guest blog post by: Kirsten, Coffee With Chloe’s Mom

There are many telltale signs that I am a mom (e.g. I post way too many photos of my daughter on Instagram), but here are six things that have officially made me a mom of an under-2 year old.

I put random things in the fridge
Since becoming a mom I have put a whole bunch of strange things in the fridge without even realizing it. The other week my husband texted me at work wondering why an empty carton of yoghurt filled with vegetable scraps was in the fridge. A couple of weeks ago it was a pair of scissors.

I sing nursery songs on the street
My husband tells me I sound like Adam Sandler when I sing, but my daughter seems to love my tone-deaf songs. And I’ll do anything in an effort to stop her from having a meltdown on walks.

I do the ‘mom sway’
Even when I’m not holding my daughter, I find myself swaying side-to-side. I’m most likely to be found doing this in grocery store lines.

I eat off my child’s plate
I used to think it was gross, but now I find myself falling into this trap. I’ll eat the scraps off her plate. I’ll even admit here that I also eat half-chewed pieces of food when she hands them to me as part of ‘sharing’.

I randomly talk about nursing
Since returning to work I’ve found myself randomly talking about nursing and how I’m still doing it. Why do I do this? I have no clue.

I no longer have a name
Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize that my husband no longer refers to me by name. I just get called mom. I suppose there could be worse things to be called!


DSC_0155About Kirsten

Hi, Im Kirsten. A mom. A wife. A daughter. And someone who really loves to travel and hates mayonnaise. I also write a weekly newsletter called Coffee with Chloe’s mom and Instagram way too much.

First, let me say; I remember when I was pregnant, becoming mentally exhausted (and slightly scared) from all the well meaning, but unsolicited, and often unwanted, advice I received. Unfortunately, most of the advice given is scary, negative, old-fashioned and “I know best” kind of advice. I can honestly not remember one person who simply told me how much fun this was going to be. Or, how delivering a baby doesn’t necessarily turn you into a shrieking, husband-hating monster. Everyone is always so happy for you, yet, they can’t come up with one positive thing to say.So, here is what I will want to say (if she asks…) to my future daughter-in-laws about how to survive, enjoy and graduate from motherhood (not that we ever stop being moms)

1.  Nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically. You are about to become a mother, don’t lose yourself

While you are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant, pay attention to the little things that nourish you as a woman, a person and a friend and wife. What are the things that make you smile; make you feel happy and fulfilled? Is it time alone with

Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.
Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.

your spouse and/or friends? Is alone time important to you? Reading? Pick at least one of these and make time for it once the baby has arrived. You can do this AND be a wonderful, committed mother.

Prioritize your health. Learn what you need to about preparing for, pregnancy and recovering post partum. Find and see your local Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Learn about the inside of your body and pelvic floor. Do your Kegels and bind your belly immediately post partum.

2.  Treasure the moments

If you already have kids I am sure you have already heard advice like “don’t rush through it”, “enjoy, they grow so fast”. I heard it so many times, but still would think: “I wish he would walk soon”, “If only he could talk and tell me what he wants”

My oldest and I
My oldest and I

I can tell you as someone who has 4 grown children and just moved one of my youngest out – They are right! Enjoy the small moments and the wonder. I know it gets crazy at times with these little, not always cooperating, but adorable people. I now spend a fair bit of time reminiscing and enjoying those memories in my mind. You see, I listened to that advice, but not well enough. I really tried to still my day and sit down with my boys and just enjoy the story they were telling, the cuddle or simply watching them do their thing quietly, but I worried about my house-work too. Now that they are older I still look for any opportunity to sit down and enjoy time with my boys.

3.  Parent in a way that feels right for you and your partner.

I figured out early on that I really only wanted to ask for and listen to advice from certain friends/family members, namely, those with similar parenting beliefs and philosophies. So, I rarely give advice, unless asked. And I never asked for advice except from those specific moms. That way you are not getting judged simply for asking and you don’t have to listen to advice you have no intention of following. Except for from your mother and mother-in-law of course, because they will give you advice whether you want it or not. Just listen, smile and nod…and then erase from your memory so it doesn’t sneak up on you in a weak moment 😉

4.  Prioritize your marriage/relationship

Your marriage comes first! You got together and had a family for a reason, now you owe it not only to yourselves, but to yourP1000127 children to make this work. I am divorced, and I can honestly say, there is no hockey game or practice, ballet recital, or homework assignment that is more important than that. Parenting and maintaining your relationship are two equally important entities. Obviously you will meet your children’s basic needs of life and much more. Make it just as important to do something for your relationship with your spouse every day. It can be really small like sitting down for 5 minutes together – alone and just being together; a kiss and a hug at the end of every day; a sweet text to say you are thinking of each other. And yes, schedule date nights – often, even if that simply means going to bed early and not watching television… 😉

5.  Be a mother, not a friend to your children

I too often hear mothers brag about how they are “best friends” with their daughter. It is great if you are close and share and talk to each other openly, but your daughter is not your bff, nor are you hers. Being a mother is a true privilege and pleasure and a very unique place in life. You are a confidant, advisor and the one who loves them without condition or limitation. With you they are completely safe. Safe to be wrong, inconsiderate, apologetic, remorseful, wonderful, funny, goofy and so much more. There is a life long bond between a mother and child that doesn’t need the tag of “best friends” to have meaning. Because when we try to be best friends we try not to displease. We don’t say things that might upset or anger them, and thus we stop parenting. It is our job as parents to say the things they don’t want to hear when they need to hear it. It is their friends’ job to cheer them up when you do. My boys don’t think of me as their best friend. I am their mother. I am always there for them and they know that. I am their first call when they need something, or want to share an experience. I feel so lucky to be that. I know one day their wives will take that place, but I also know they will still call me and check in, because that’s what we do.

Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self.  I am so proud of the young men they have become.
Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self. I am so proud of the young men they have become.

Oh dear, this ended up being a little longer than I intended it to be, but thank you for sticking with me to the end. I would love to hear from you! What is the one thing you will tell a young mom one day?

With love, Elisabeth

elisabethELISABETH PARSONS is a pro fitness trainer, nutritional counsellor, and lifestyle coach to women. She is a mother of 4 very active boys, and enjoys sharing her life experience and knowledge about adding vitality to your life through healthy, active living.

How Much Food Should My Child Be Eating? Guest blog post by: Aviva Allen, Kids Nutritionist 

As parents we all go through periods where we worry about how much our kids are eating. This is especially true when dealing with a child who is underweight or seems to have a small appetite. It is also true when dealing with a child who is overweight and sneaking food. Yet even when we are dealing with a child who has a perfectly healthy weight, parents will often still wonder if their child is eating enough or too much and how this will affect their future growth and eating habits.

While it is not our job as parents to determine how much our kids eat, there are ways in which we can support them in their eating.

Don’t interfere

Young children are very good at self-regulating if we let them. This means not interfering with their quantities by the use of pressure tactics. They are the only ones who know how much their bodies need. Even though at times they may eat more or less than they need, they will usually make up for this by making the necessary adjustments at other meals.

Planned meals and snacks

Planning scheduled meals and snacks is one of our feeding responsibilities. Your child should be allowed to eat as much as they want at each sit down meal or snack and will be better able to regulate their amounts compared to being allowed to graze throughout the day. Snacks do not need to be what we tend to think of as “snack foods”. Think of them more like small meals and ensure the same balance that you would at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We should be offering our kids 4-5 opportunities to eat throughout the day so that would mean 1-2 snacks.

Proper spacing between meals and snacks

Use snacks to support mealtime and space them out properly to ensure your child comes to the table hungry, but not too hungry. If you wait too long, some children will be cranky and more likely to have a meltdown at the table while others may overeat. If your meals and snacks are too close together, your child will be more likely to reject what is offered at the table or eat only a small amount. This often results in parental pressure to eat in the form of negotiations and bribery. Your child may legitimately not be hungry and teaching them to ignore their internal huger cues can lead to trouble down the road.

Ultimately it is not our role to determine the appropriate quantity for our children to eat. We provide healthy and balanced meals and snacks. We provide them with a positive mealtime environment. We provide them with structure. Then we need to take a step back and let them do their job. Sometimes they will eat too much, sometimes they will eat too little and sometimes they will not choose to eat from all of the important food/nutrition groups but we need to let them make these mistakes in their eating and then learn to make up for them.

For advice on nutrition and feeding that is specific to your child and your family, call/email or book online to set up an in-office, phone or Skype consultation.


62_aviva-blog - CopyAviva Allen is one of Toronto’s leading Kids’ Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters.  Inspired by her two young boys’ adventures in food, Aviva helps children and their families establish healthy eating habits through her nutritional counselling practice located in Midtown Toronto, as well as offering consultations via phone or Skype for those out of the area. Aviva is also the founder of Healthy Moms Toronto, helping connect like-minded moms throughout the GTA.


There is no one that likes a good Popsicle treat more than me on a hot day. My kids however, think that a Popsicle is a well-balanced meal and ask for them all day long! So when a hot day hits (and we have had a lot of them this summer) I am always on the lookout for a healthy alternative to the sugar-filled store bought freezies and Popsicles.

I’ve experimented with a few online recipes, like frozen yogurt with pureed strawberries, but there has been only two healthier options that have pulled the wool over my picky-eaters eyes. The first is super simple that it’s laughable! I simply water down their favourite apple or orange juice and freeze.


The second one is my personal favourite because it’s like a tasty Fudgesicle and is also super easy. All I did was mix Chocolate Nutrimeal shake powder with milk and blend. Chocolate Nutrimeal just happens to be my breakfast of Champions every morning. It is low glycemic and has natural sweeteners rather than the store-bought ones.

Once blended, just pour into the Popsicle molds and freeze. It’s a delicious treat within a few hours. You can tell by their smilies that they are pretty excited about it!

I may have even snuck one or two for myself after the kids went to bed!

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