Mother and Baby

5 Toddler Bad Habits – And How To Break Them

From dummies to nighttime nerves, help your child ditch troublesome habits

Relying on a dummy to go to sleep is surprisingly common for a toddler, as is dragging around a holey blankie whenever you go out. While there’s nothing wrong with a baby wanting comfort, especially during the first year, there comes a time when you’ll want to help her stop.

1. Your toddler needs a feed to sleep

It’s fine to feed your baby to sleep occasionally, but she may not be able to drop off without a feed if you carry on like this for too long.

To break the cycle, make feeding an earlier part of the bedtime routine and finish with a song or story instead. ‘Expect some crying but smile, reassure her and don’t give in,’ says Sue Atkins, founder of Positive Parenting.

If your cries as she’s going to sleep, it may be easier if your partner reassures her. Agree the rules with him, though, otherwise older children can play you off against each other and you may resent your man if he doesn’t stick to the plan.

2. Your toddler has night-time anxiety  

This can occur anytime during the first few years, but it’s often due to separation anxiety, which usually peaks by 18 months.

Your toddler might start crying when you leave the room or appear at your bedside after you’ve put her down for the night. ‘Stay calm, return your baby to her bed if necessary and help her to self-soothe by keeping to a familiar routine, like a story,’ says Sue. ‘It will take about four nights for your baby to relearn how to settle.’

If your baby starts crying, by all means reassure her, but don’t stay or make it a big deal.

3. Your toddler won’t give up the dummy

Using a dummy in the daytime can slow speech development, so it’s good to wean her off it.

If binning it seems harsh, keep it just for bedtime – store it under your toddler’s pillow or in a box next to the cot so she associates it with night.  If you’re going to keep the dummy for cot-time only, though, explain this carefully and remind her about it often.

Want to ditch it entirely?

Make a dummy tree. ‘Use ribbon to hang your dummies on a tree in the garden for the “dummy fairy” to take away,’ says Sue. ‘Make sure the fairy leaves a thank-you toy behind.’ It’s amazing what power Peppa Pig holds.

4. Your toddler can’t ditch the comfort blanket

It’s normal for small children to need a boost from a beloved item, but if you give her extra hugs, smiles and praise, you may find she’ll forget about it.

Having a favourite blankie or bear in the cot is one thing, but clutching it all day isn’t ideal.

‘To help your child off it, try saying, “Now you’re a big girl, you don’t need to bring blankie today, do you?”’ says Sue. ‘Then, next time, “accidentally” forget it.’

It’s normal for small children to need a boost from a beloved item, but if you give her extra hugs, smiles and praise, you may find she’ll forget about it.

5. Your toddler still sucks her thumb

Some mums see this as adorable, while others worry about it affecting their baby’s teeth and speech development.

Don’t panic just yet. ‘It’s only once the mouth starts to get ready for the adult teeth, at about four or five, that it’s a problem,’ says orthodontist Dr Runa Mowla-Copley. ‘It’s a huge comfort, so I wouldn’t discourage a toddler.’

Almost all children will naturally give it up by school age but, if it persists, a dentist explaining how it affects her teeth could do the trick.