Rachel Waddilove knows a lot about babies and toddlers. She has years of experience under her belt as a mother, maternity nurse and celebrity nanny.

We asked her to share some practical advice for parents with young families.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a nanny?

The most difficult thing I face in my role is alleviating fear in new parents. Older parents can often be anxious and my role with all parents is to help them to enjoy their babies and take away the fear. It still motivates me now.

In your opinion, what are the most important things a baby needs?

Food and sleep. Often parents will think their baby needs feeding when actually they are exhausted and need putting down in their cot or pram for a good nap. A good full tummy and enough time awake and active, and then sleep. And lots of love and cuddles, but there’s no need to mollycoddle. We tend to be very overprotective, forgetting that babies are quite tough.

As a young family grows, how do the problems change?

At this stage parents tend to be more relaxed, but the problem is fitting everything in. Mums come to me and say, “I feel awful, I’m not spending enough time with the baby and the toddler is taking over.” It’s usual for the second or third children not to get as much attention as the first, but as long as baby is fed and comfortable and sleeps, that’s the main thing. Give them lots of cuddles and eye contact when you’re feeding and changing nappies. It’s also important to integrate the baby into family life, and make sure your toddler is OK.

How can parents prepare a toddler for the birth of their new sibling?

When you start feeling baby move, that’s a good time to talk to your toddler about it, because it’s more tangible them. Involve them when you are getting out the Moses basket. Don’t overdo it; be relaxed. There are good books for children about baby coming to live with them. When baby comes, involve older children with what you’re doing, and if they are old enough, ask for their help with tasks. They can stand at the side of the bath while you are bathing the baby, or if the toddler is old enough you can put them in the bath together.

In all families, the older children want to cuddle the baby, and it’s great to let them. You need to be there and help, but don’t fret about it. Take photos of the older child with the little one, this will be something they will be proud of.

What are the key ingredients for happy family life?

I believe the most important thing is that your children sleep at night. Of all the calls I get, 99% are sleep-related. Lack of sleep is destructive to your relationship. If your children sleep and you get a good night, life in the day is fine; you have energy for family time. It’s also important for couples to have time and space together, even if it’s just going for a walk or getting a takeaway.

Spend time with young children. Sit down and let them play and get involved. Going for a walk together as a family and chatting is much more positive than a stressful shopping trip. If you have several children, try sometimes to let each child have time with one or other parent. Going swimming is great for this, or just taking one child with you to help you run an errand.

A nice family thing to do is to have Sunday lunch, or a meal together at home. There’s nothing like sitting around a table with young children and hearing about what’s happening in their little lives.

Rachel Waddilove is the author of The Baby Book and The Toddler Book. These are available at www.rachelsbabies.com – where you can also find more information and advice from Rachel.

This information is supplied in good faith, but Care for the Family cannot accept responsibility for any advice or recommendations made by other organisations or resources.

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