Helpful Tips with Occupational Therapist, Rachael

June 15, 2023




Today we have the beautiful Rachael, an experienced occupational therapist, who is going to share some tips on how to make those milestones that little bit easier. Mama to toddler Olive, owner of her occupational therapy business Therapy Time, and occupational therapist for Boob to Food, Rachael has a wealth of knowledge to share with us today.

Before we get started, let’s get to know you better! What’s one thing that makes you feel alive?

What a great question. An infrared sauna is definitely my guilty pleasure. But I also love the ocean. So let's say a sauna followed by a beach swim.

What drew you into Occupational Therapy?

There were a few formative moments that led me to OT. I spent a few months volunteering at an orphanage in the Philippines during a gap year after high school. While I loved my time and the chance to serve, I recall feeling a tension of not being able to help more practically. I remember deciding that I wanted to come back one day with a practical skill set. I was also really inspired by an occupational therapist and speech pathologist who worked with my younger cousin, who has a diagnosis of Dandy Walker Syndrome. OT ended up being a practical way to help and serve kiddies and families. I love it. 



(Above) Rachael & Olive. Source:

You’re a mum yourself and have been through all the up and downs of parenthood! That newborn phase is such a blur. Do you have any advice from your knowledge as an OT that would be helpful to mums with newborns? 

As an occupational therapist I talk a lot about sensory processing, and the way kiddies process and interpret visual, auditory, tactile, movement and oral sensory input. During the first few months of being a mum, I was reminded that this is not just important for kids! I experienced firsthand just how important it is to understand my own sensory needs.

We all have a "sensory bucket" (more scientifically explained as a neurological threshold) and all of our sensory buckets are different sizes. It turns out that my sensory bucket is quite small and sensitive to auditory input and touch input. While I was prepared for the newborn cries and cuddles, I wasn't prepared for how this would affect my sensory system. Recognising that postpartum sensory sensitivity is normal and having a few grounding strategies to get me through it was really helpful. People always say to get out for a walk, but this one didn't seem to work for me! (Funnily enough, it actually heighted my sensory sensitivity). Some things that helped me from a sensory perspective were popping music or a Beyond the Bump podcast in my earphones, lots of crunchy snacks, using my diffuser and getting out for a sauna as often as I could. 

Starting solids is such a big milestone! What would be your 3 tips to make a smooth transition to starting solids?

I could probably write 30, this is a huge passion of mine! Some important ones...

Starting Solids Tip #1

Be responsive to your baby's cues for hunger or fullness. If your baby is healthy, then we can trust that they are intuitive and able to cue into their hunger cues. Follow their lead here and avoid adding stress or pressure about the quantity of food consumed. 

Starting Solids Tip #2

Family meals! Eat with your baby as much as possible and eat the same food. Babies have never eaten solid food before. Just like all the other skills little ones develop, they learn how to do it from their caregiver. If their meal doesn't line up with your mealtime, then just grab a small plate and see it as an entree. You might be surprised just how tasty roast carrots and liver pate can be.

Starting Solids Tip #3

Introduce some finger foods by 9 months at the latest. Whatever feeding approach you start with (purees, BLW, combination), the research shows us that offering finger foods by 9 months is important for oral motor strength, chewing and swallowing skill development. 

Toilet training can be a doozy! It’s such an exciting step but can also be challenging! What tips do you have as an Occupational Therapist to making toilet training a bit easier?

Toilet Training Tip #1

Make the toilet environment fun. Think about putting up pictures, stickers, having a bag of special "toilet toys" and making this routine as positive as possible.

Toilet Training Tip #2

Teach your child to push their pants (and nappy) off by themselves before starting toilet training. I'm sure you can imagine how frustrating toilet training could be without this skill!



See more on @rachtheot

Toilet Training Tip #3 
Interoceptive Awareness

Build interoceptive awareness... Interoception is our ability to understand internal body sensations like hunger, thirst, feeling tired and needing to wee/poo. You can do this by narrating toileting experiences. You might like to use language like "clean" and "dirty" with your little one and gradually increase the complexity of your language with their age until you are explaining what a "bladder full of wee" and "poo trying to push its way out of your bottom" feels like. It's all about forming connections between sensations and feelings. 



Image source:

Toilet Training Tip #4

Get the ergonomics right. Whether you are using a potty or a climbing frame, we want to make sure your little one is stable, can get on and off independently and that their hips and knees are in flexion (Imagine trying to do a poo without your feet on the ground!)

I am currently putting these tips to the test with my almost 2-year-old. It turns out toilet training is easier (and less messy) in theory than in practice! I'm sharing my journey on instagram @rachtheot 

A huge thank you to Rachael for sharing her knowledge with us today! If you want to learn more, you can and @rachtheot and also @boobtofood

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