Habits emerge slowly and insidiously over the first two years of your baby’s life and before you know it, you wake up one day and realize you are held hostage by a ritual, habit or routine that is inflexible and difficult to maintain. It’s time to manage that habit and here are some tried and tested tips to get you there.
Sleep habits – Sleep is a common arena for negative habits. They entail rituals for getting to sleep that are dependent on mom or dad and these habits prevent independent sleep skills from emerging. The most common ones are the dummy habit, feed to sleep and the rock to sleep habit.
Sleep habits rarely emerge before 4 months of age, as babies don’t have long-term memories of cause and effect. They are very common from 5 months onwards. The only way to shift a sleep habit is to sleep coach your baby. To do this follow simple steps:
- Teach a more independent strategy/habit – eg holding a bunny
- Sit with your baby at night while he learns to use the new strategy and encourage him to form a new, independent habit
- If he cries, sit with him, pat him and love him but don’t offer the crutch that fosters dependence
- It will take a few nights to get right and break the old habit
Eating in front of the TV – On many levels this isn’t a good habit – it encourages obesity and decreases social engagement. Make mealtimes social, sit with your little one while he eats, chat and distract but avoid letting him eat in front of the TV
Socially unacceptable toddler habits – There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing your toddler with his finger up his nose or his hand deep in his nappy. Try to discourage these behaviours with distraction – give his hand something better to. These self-regulating behaviours also often emerge when a toddler is tired or bored. Make sure your toddler has a daily sleep and is occupied with interesting activities instead of laying in front of the TV.