I'm an ex-Norland Nanny and from bedtime battles to toddler tantrums, this is how to train your child – the Royal way

SARAH Carpenter, 42, was trained in childcare at the world-renowned Norland College – which was founded in 1892 and is popular with royals such as the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and celebs including rocker Mick Jagger. 

Sarah is now a sleep consultant, maternity nurse and co-host of the podcast Sleep Mums. 


She lives in Crieff, Perth, with her partner Allan Stewart, 43, and her three children, Harry, 10, Alfie, eight, and Emily, six. 

Here she shares her story, and her tips and tricks to deal with common issues that many parents may come across, from bedtime battles to toddler tantrums…

CLUTCHING my new-born son Harry, tears sprung to my eyes as I wondered in a moment of exhaustion if I would ever have enough time to even grab a quick shower. 

Understandably, as with many first-time mums, I felt overwhelmed – I was overjoyed to be a mum but my life as I knew it had been turned upside down with the arrival of my much-loved baby. 

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However, unlike a lot of other parents, I’d also graduated with distinction at the world-renowned, famous childcare college Norland. 

Clients referred to me as ‘Mary Poppins’ because of how I looked after their children, and I knew how to change nappies, breastfeed, and so much more.

Because of this, I’d put so much pressure on myself to have perfect babies and be the perfect mum – and what I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional, hormonal side of having a baby. 

In that moment, I realised nothing – and no amount of training – can fully prepare you for having your own children. 

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Of course, I knew it was going to get easier, but at that point I couldn’t believe I’d ever be able to leave this baby to do something simple like shower, which is a shock for anyone, no matter who you are. 

Even if you’re royalty or one of the biggest stars on the planet, being a parent isn’t easy – which is why I now work as a maternity nurse and sleep consultant, helping up to eight families a week solve issues with sleep, feeding and behaviour concerns, and am proud to say I have now helped thousands of parents over my career. 

Growing up, I always wanted to work with children. 

I’m one of three and was the middle child, and my mum said from the age of three I’d decided that’s what I was going to do when I grew up.

I was always obsessed with dolls, would help with my little sister, who is seven years younger than me, and was always on hand to babysit when I was a teen.

It was my mum who said if I was going to go down that route then Norland was the way to go, as she’d grown up seeing Norland nannies wearing their smart uniforms, pushing the big carriage prams around.  

So I applied when I was 14, and got my place when I was 17 – which was a real honour. 

They only let in 100 students a year now, and it was even less back then. 

The school has its reputation because every student is fully invested in what they do. 

You don’t go to Norland if you’re not going to make the most of it, and you’re taught everything – child psychology, first aid, baby and child development.

We were on placement from the start, right in amongst it and planning activities and hitting development targets for each child.

Back then there was also a baby hotel on site, so children would come and stay with us for periods of time, if their parents went on holiday or were away working. 

I loved it – I missed home and we all joked about the uniforms we had to wear and starching the collar could get a bit boring, but I was proud to wear it and it did make us stand out. 

After I graduated I started nannying in 1999 in London, before moving to Australia, and travelled the world for six years working for three families for a couple of years at a time. 

It was long hours and a lot of working weekends, but the pay was good [Norland nannies can now earn up to £120k a year] and I absolutely loved it. 

Then in 2008, I decided to focus specifically on babies and sleep, and helping families resolve common issues. 

"I always recommend stepping away if you as a parent feel yourself becoming irate."

The main issues parents ask for my help with are sleep, feeding and behaviour. 

For babies, feeding can be an issue, whether it’s breast or bottle or transitioning from one to the other.

With breastfeeding, mums often feel lots of pressure, so you need to try to be as open minded as possible – if it’s not working for you that’s fine and you should feel supported no matter what your decision is.

When it comes to sleep, a lot of people just assume they’re not going to get any sleep, and then others believe it can’t be as bad as it is sometimes, so it’s a shock. 

But it doesn’t need to be like that.

One myth we bust on our podcast is the advice everyone hears of ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. 

The majority of healthy babies will sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, and you’re not going to sleep like that, in broken up sections across the day and you do need to do other things. 

Sleep and bedtime routines are also one of the most common problems I see with children between three to eight.

This usually involves children struggling to get to sleep, or they may wake up multiple times in the night, or will get up really early.

If there are issues, the first tip is it’s really important to not talk about it at bedtime. 

Pick a time of the day that’s totally un-associated with sleep, for example when you’re walking to the shop or walking to the park, and then gently chat to them about it. 

Don’t force the issue, just lead a conversation, and make sure they feel comfortable enough to talk about it. 

I also always recommend and get the families I work with to take photos of the children doing their bedtime routine – brushing their teeth, getting into bed, having a bedtime story. 

If you have photographs of the child doing these things, it’s a visual reminder to the child they’ve done it before and nothing went wrong. 

For early rising, you have to check out their environment – is there a noise that happens that wakes them up? Are the bins being emptied? Is there a change in temperature – does the heating go on or off, is the sun coming up earlier? 

They may need to reduce nap time in the day or it’s time to cut their nap completely. 

If they’re having a big lunch and then a smaller dinner it might be they’re just not full enough. 

Then, as children get older there’s also often issues with behaviour too. 

When it comes to behaviour, a lot of reward charts come into play, and it’s vital parents are able to stay calm. 

I always recommend stepping away if you as a parent feel yourself becoming irate. 

For children, their behaviour is how they communicate so what can be perceived as a child being ‘naughty’ could just be a child who is confused, or nervous, or worried about something and they don’t know how to communicate it, so it’s really important to get to know your child.

Most children have tantrums because they’re trying to communicate something, not because they’re intentionally being bad. 

They have something to say and they can’t verbalise it. 

House moves or a new sibling can be extremely unsettling so lots of preparation and chat about it is important.

You need to talk to them on their level, but not at times that will cause more anxiety or are tired and hungry. 

Ultimately, it’s all about meeting a child’s needs, no matter their age. 

A lot of parents don’t appreciate how busy it can be having a baby, and ultimately nobody makes any mistakes – the pressure and anxiety parents put themselves under is horrible.

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You have to make parenting positive, because so many things make it feel negative.

And no matter who you are – whether you’re a celebrity, a royal or a trained childcare professional, it’s important you feel you can ask for help and there’s absolutely no shame in that.”

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