By the time a child turns four, they’ll most likely have experienced monumental lifestyle changes such as giving up the binky, the bottle and the crib.
Imagine having to start a new job or having your bed removed all while attempting a radical new diet, or while quitting drinking coffee or chewing gum…
When you put things into perspective, it’s clear that habits are calming and transitions can be jarring—for little ones and parents alike! The good news is that children are masters at adapting with relative ease, but not without a healthy dose of understanding and resourcefulness on their parents’ part.
In large, transitioning is all about timing. And truth be told, every child is different. Before you decide to embark on a big change in your child’s life just because your pediatrician and “the books” all say the time is right, remember that recommendations are exactly that—recommendations. Always go with your mom instincts!
Without further ado, the following are the top 5 questions we get from moms who want to know when and how to break those baby habits.
While the jury is still out on whether or not pacifiers can and will cause dental problems or speech delays if used into the toddler years, most docs say there’s no need to rush things before your child is 2. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now encourages pacifier use as a way for babies to soothe themselves and as a method for possibly reducing the risk of SIDS.
For babies, most pediatricians recommend quitting cold turkey. After about age 2, it is recommended to do it gradually. You can start by limiting binky use to certain times or places (bedtime for example), until it’s gone for good. Some tried and true approaches include:
• Happily announce to your child that the pacifier now lives in the crib, and if he/she wants it, they will have to get in the crib with it!
• Cut holes in the binky and it will lose suction—causing your child to lose interest.
• When you sense your child is ready to give up the binky altogether, a visit from the Binky Fairy may be in order.
The perfect time to introduce the sippy cup is around 9 months, when babies naturally insist on doing things by themselves. It’s usually much easier to phase out the bottle at 12 or 18 months than it will be at age 2—when your child has a better memory and is more stubborn. Still, there’s no harm in a nighttime bottle up to age 2 (as long as there’s no sugar in it that could cause tooth decay).
You can make the sippy cup an exciting transition by letting your child pick out his/her own cup at the store. There are a ton of brightly colored designs and character cups available. Be sure to choose a sippy cup that’s easy to hold and doesn’t leak. Once you have your cup, casually introduce it like it’s a new food, and let your child play with it for a while. Remember: drinking from a cup takes practice! There will be spills, and you’ll probably spend lots of time picking the cup up off the floor in the beginning. But once your little one gets used to it, you can say bye, bye bottle!
There are two signs your child may be ready for a big kid bed: if they are too big and active for the crib or if they are climbing out of it. But ideally, you want to wait until your child is about 3 years old so that he/she can fully comprehend the idea of staying put—which, let’s face it: even at that age can be a difficult concept!
First, test your child’s readiness by dropping the side of the crib for a few nights and see if they stay put. Next, make the move exciting and let your child pick out their new bed or maybe some fancy new sheets. Night lights can also help during the transition to a big kid bed!
Remember: It’s important that you keep the same bedtime routine you had in the past.
How do you know when it’s time to quit naptime? When naptime starts interfering with bedtime. Most babies will drop their morning naps by around 18 months. 10 to 25% of children give up naps altogether by 3. And by age 4, the majority of children are done with naptime altogether.
Bidding farewell to naptime is one of those habits your child will gradually break on their own. If you’re at the point where you have to force naptime, that may be a good sign that your child no longer needs the extra sleep during the day. Try skipping naps for a few days to see how your child reacts: if he/she becomes moody and has trouble falling asleep at night due to being overtired, then wait it out a few more months. When your child is ready to quit naptime, be sure to keep bedtime consistent. Also, it’s important to remember that you’re not saying goodbye naptime forever: if your child has a long day, he/she may still want to take a nap. Feel free to go ahead and join in!
The answer to this question will be different for everyone. The right time will be when mom and baby are ready to wean. A bit of caution regarding the worst times to wean: doctors do not recommend weaning a baby when they are experiencing stress, like moving or the arrival of a sibling. For some moms, there are certain periods when the transition can be a little easier! For example, between the ages of 6 and 9 months, babies are intent on learning how to do things like sit up and crawl—which may make them less interested in nursing throughout the day.
Weaning should be a gradual process and take anywhere from 10 days to two weeks for mom to be comfortable and for baby to understand. A good transition is to swap one daily breastfeeding session for a bottle or cup feeding every few days—but leave coveted bedtime feedings for last. Try to break the routine by feeding your baby in a different place than you usually would and have others hold the bottle. If you’ve been pumping, you’ll want to gradually dial down the amount of time you spend on the pump to decrease your production. For example, if you spend 15 minutes one day, spend 10 minutes the next, and so on.
Have any expert mom tips for transitioning baby? Please share below!