Tips and Advice From Pinky Mackay

Thanks to everyone who left questions for Pinky, winners of the double passes to the Baby & Toddler Show in Melbourne (30 March to 1 April) have been notified.

Thanks also to Pinky Mackay for taking the time to personally answer these questions and sharing her wisdom – I am most appreciative and hoping it helps with my dilema!


Pinky Mackay


I did a baby massage course with her when my twins were tiny and I was struggling. I don’t remember any of the baby massage techniques but I remember so many of Pinky’s words. She saved my sanity, gave me the confidence to keep fighting to breastfeed my twins and supported me in so many ways… made such a difference to us.

I’d ask Pinky how she stays positive and understanding in a world where children and babies are often treated without respect….


Hi Kate,

Thanks for your lovely feedback.  I received some fantastic support when my own first child was almost a year old  and knowing how much difference that made for me has coloured my work with mums. At the time I was the only person I knew who was breastfeeding  (I had no clue how to wean anyway). We moved to New Zealand and I went along to a La Leche League group, There I met some very conscious and informed mothers who welcomed me and made me feel so good about myself.

I love seeing mothers regain their confidence to be the mums that THEY want to be. I am so passionate about mums and babies  that  being positive just comes naturally and  I feel  sad  that mums who are doing a wonderful job get a hard time from everyone about choosing to nurture responsively. Baby trainers beware!


Dear Pinky,

My son is 16 months old and learned last week how to throw a tantrum from another kid at playgroup. My mum says I must be firmer with him and that it’s a sign of an unhappy child. Is this true and how should I respond to his new moodiness?


Sorry but I disagree with your mum.  Your 16 month old would probably have started having tantrums all by himself without learning from anyone else.  At this age the nerves that produce emotions are on line but the nerves that control them aren’t developed until about 3 years.

A tantrum is really just an intense storm of emotions that your littlie can’t control yet, not a sign of unhappiness or naughtiness. It can be helpful to notice what seems to trigger tantrums so you can reduce them  and to get some more information so you know you aren’t failing in any way as a mum – check out the article about taming tantrums  at my website

Single parenting

I would love to ask Pinky how, as a single mum of 3, do I handle sibling rivalry and them fighting over me for attention? There’s only 1 of me and I feel very stressed out and tired at the end of the day


Firstly, please be kind to yourself – you are doing an awesome job coping with three kids all by yourself.  As a mum of five, I used to find the easiest way to cut myself a bit of slack was to sit on the ‘big bed’ and read stories – a kid either side of me and a baby on my lap.  I also spent a lot of time on the floor doing activities together. You haven’t mentioned the ages of your children but if your separation from your partner is fairly recent they may be seeking reassurance and security from you  and perhaps being a bit more demanding  because of this.

Some other ways of taking the pressure off are : including them in some of your day to day tasks – cooking, tidying, making beds;  going to the park – where they will be distracted and busy; setting up an activity  before you go to bed at night so they can engage in play in the morning  and start the day on a positive note.

It’s also  good to factor in some one on one time that they can count on. They may not eb old enough to understand  taking turns but if you have a friend/ relative/ a local school kid who could come in once a week (with your supervision), you may be able to do an activity with one child at a time and then they would be able to count on that day being consistent.

Parenting toddlers

I would ask Pinky how to make that change from parenting babies to parenting toddlers. I am finding it hard at the moment.


Yes, parenting  toddlers does require some shifts – you now have a little person who is developing a will, can escape and needs to explore safely.  One tip is to sit down with your partner and explore your ‘parenting toolbox’ – what things you liked about your own childhood, what you have read, been exposed to through friends etc and discuss what sort of parenting is right for you. What are your values? What’s a grey area? What’s not negotiable (eg no smacking)? Then explore options for reading, learning more and getting support.

Playgroups are enormously supportive in that you get to see other parents who have little ones doing all the same ‘uncivilised’ things that your child is doing so you know  there is a range of development and behaviour that’s normal for toddlers.

Skilling up is really important too – I’d suggest reading my book Toddler Tactics and checking out some of the recording packages at my website where I have interviewed early childhood experts on learning and behaviour. I also offer Toddler Tactics seminars (

Age gap between siblings

I’d like to ask Pinky when is a good time to start trying for a second child in terms of how it will effect the first child and also, what can be done to ensure the 1st child’s wellbeing throughout this adjustment.


This can be such a personal thing – what support do you have? Do you fall pregnant easily (there is no guarantee it will happen as planned)? What stage of development is your child at? How old are you – is there a time pressure to become pregnant?

I often see parents lulled into  a false sense of security when they have say, a  5 or six month old, they think they have a ‘handle’ on parenting so they get pregnant – then they have a very active toddler who can’t yet speak, may not be able to walk and still has high needs for attention as well as a baby.

Ideally a two to three year gap or longer is better for your first child so he is able to get his early needs met before having to share your attention.  It’s also important to let your own body recover from pregnancy and breastfeeding before conceiving. However, the reality is that babies can come as soon as you start ‘trying’ or you may take longer than you expected to get pregnant.

Whatever the age gap, it’s helpful to bear in mind that your first child will have some adapting to the new family structure so here are a few tips:

Try to see things from your toddler’s point of view and be patient with them when introducing a new bundle of joy to the family. Imagine that your partner has just brought home a new lover and announced that you are all going to live together. It will be fun! You will be best friends! After hearing that your partner loves you and his new lover equally, you are asked to share all your things with this intruder. It also turns out that you won’t be getting as much attention as you used to because the new lover is a bit upset about something. Anyway, you are such a clever person, you can do lots of things by yourself now. Oh, and by the way, you must be gentle with the new lover! Wouldn’t go down too well, would it?

To help smooth the transition, and introduce the idea of having a sibling during pregnancy, use dolls to discuss typical baby behaviour and take your toddler to visit a friend with a baby for a close-up look. After the birth buy a present for the new baby to give to your toddler. In hospital and at home, let your older child help while you feed, change, wash and hold the baby. Set up a corner for feeding times, with special things to occupy your toddler: snacks, drinks, storybooks, a scrapbook and crayons, a CD player with your toddler’s favourite songs. While you’re feeding the baby, tell her (loudly enough to be overheard!) how great it is to have a big brother or sister. When the baby is settled remember that your “Big” kid needs mummy time too and enjoy cuddles and activities without the baby.


We have a 14 month old son and we currently lead a very transient lifestyle where my husband works between 2 places, week on week off. We accompany him and I just wonder how this lack of routine and consistency might effect my son, and what I can do to lessen the impact.

Renae Foottit

At this age your child’s security is YOU! So by meeting his needs and introducing some familiar rituals – eg around mealtimes, goodbyes, sleep  – you will be creating security and consistency to support your little one wherever you are.   As long as you and your partner are happy with your lifestyle, your child will be too. The bonus is that you will probably have a more flexible child!


Hi. I’d love advice on how to help a 16 month old, who spends 3 days a week in day care, past behaviors we don’t want to encourage. Like hitting, screaming/squealing etc to get what he wants.

I’d also love help with helping him to feel more comfortable with others. He loves 2 of his day care girls, but everyone else (including friends on the weekend) he won’t go to without tears.


Please be gentle on yourself and your little one. Childcare is a huge step for a baby this age without language, mature social skills and an emotional tank that needs to be filled with  love from  his key attachments – you! 

The best way to help your child feel comfortable with others is to help him feel totally secure – from this secure base, he will then venture out in baby steps.  Separation anxiety is a very normal phase at this age so please don’t force other people onto him – that will only make it harder for him and you. He needs to form attachments with others one at a time  so  as you make changes and introduce  other people, remember the mantra, ‘gradually with love’ . If he’s in childcare 3 days already, he really needs you to be present the rest of the time.  Sometimes the clingiest toddlers turn out to be very independent later because we can’t short change them on having their security needs met.

Please see the time spent now as an investment in your child’s attachment to you – this will save a lot of stress later.

Sharing attention

I would ask Pinky how to best divide my attention between my 2 1/2 year old and my 6 month old baby.

Lyndall Crisp

You can really feel torn about this – lots of sitting on the floor or the big bed if you need to deal with two littlies at once – baby lying on the floor watching while you play blocks etc with toddler.  Please see the answers above for managing siblings – and do take time to do a special activity just with your two year old – preferably every day so he can count on ‘mummy and me time’ but also remember, you do need to meet your baby’s needs too.

Toilet training

I would ask Pinky a question on toilet training. Our 3 year old has number ones, completely sorted and doesn’t wear nappies during his day or night sleep. He does however not go to the toilet for bowel movements. He seems completely aware that he is doing it, but won’t go to he toilet. If I spot him and take him to the toilet, he can’t do it and will soil his pants some time after this.

Any tips will be greatly appreciated!

Planning Queen

He may be anxious about sitting on the big toilet long enough to do a poo or he might feel more comfortable pooing in a nappy – after all that’s what he’s always done so far.

If you feel he may be a bit anxious, perhaps try a potty for poos. A bit of bribery might help  too (stars, a fake tattoo or as a last resort, a sweet) and a relaxed attitude will help – take the pressure off for a week.  He really will get there even if it seems unlikely right now – he may just not quite be ready to take this step.

Pinky McKay, International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), runs a private practice in Melbourne specializing in gentle parenting techniques. A sought after keynote speaker and best-selling author with 4 titles published by Penguin, including Sleeping Like a Baby,  Parenting By Heart, 100 Ways to Calm the Crying and Toddler Tactics she’s an expert source for media appearing regularly on major network TV and quoted in various publications. Pinky’s books, parenting resources and her free newsletter ‘Gentle Beginnings’ can be found on her website


You wil be able to see Pinky Mackay at The Baby & Toddler Show in Melbourne from 30 March to 1 April (9.30am – 4.00pm). Early Bird tickets are on sale now and can be purchased from The Baby & Toddler Show’s website – $14 (single entry) and $24 (double pass) – only available until midnight 29 March 2012.

As well as featuring Pinky McKay, and parenting psychologist, Angharad Candlin will also be speaking at the show. There will be an Advice Hub with hands-on workshops and a range of childcare and parenting experts, attractions to keep the little ones entertained and new, innovative and unique baby and toddler products.

Highlights include:

  • Daily seminars by Pinky McKay and Angharad Candlin.
  • This year, in addition to the Fisher-Price Playground and Volvo car stand, there will also be a Woolworths Change Room stocked with complimentary samples, a Bio-Oil Photo Booth, and the Bananas in Pyjamas and New McDonald’s Farm on the Main Stage.