Breaking Old Habits

Infants have bottles, toddlers have pacifiers and small children have nap time. But what happens when it's time to get rid of those things? Sr. Lifestyles Editor of American Baby Magazine, Jessica Hartshorn, takes a look at what you can do to break the habit.

The weaning process in a parent/child relationship usually begins when you first wean your child from breast feeding. "It can be just as traumatic for you as for the baby," says Hartshorn. As long as it works for both you and baby, though, keep nursing. Even still, babies are usually weaned between six months and a year. "It's a combination of maybe the mom going back to work and the baby gets more distracted and curious and less interested in sitting on your lap," says Hartshorn. Children should begin eating solid foods between six and 12 months anyway, so it's a natural time to start weaning your baby from nursing.

Even if you're not breast feeding, children also need to be weaned from a bottle. Again, a child's curiosity starts to pick up around 9-12 months which makes introducing new things easier. During this time, try to give your kids a sippy cup instead of their bottle. To ease the transition, give your child milk in the sippy cup at first. After a while, your child will realize that it's the same milk in the cup as it was in the bottle. Another reason to wean your child off the bottle around this time? "If they want to nap or always have that bottle in their mouth, the sugars can start to affect their teeth," says Hartshorn.

One tough thing to wean your child from is a pacifier. While it has caused some controversy in the past, "Now the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the [pacifier] because they think it might actually help prevent SIDS," says Hartshorn. Still, once your son or daughter hits age 2, it's time to take the binky away. Hartshorn suggests using creativity to wean your child. Try introducing your son or daughter to the "Pacifier Fairy" who leaves a present in place of your child's binky, or help them give their pacifier a special send-off. "I had a friend who had her daughter throw it into the ocean," says Hartshorn. Creativity counts and can make this process a lot easier.

Another tough transition involves where your child sleeps; when is the right time to transfer your child from their crib to a toddler bed? In general, it's safe to keep your toddler in their crib as long as you can. "Why rush it? They're safe in the crib," says Hartshorn. Watch your child's body language, though. If they're starting to try to climb out or are tall enough to get their leg over the edge, it's time to make the transfer. While there are crib tents you can buy that will keep your child inside, kids who are sending these signals are usually best in a toddler bed. This usually happens by age 3, if not sooner.

Finally, giving up naps can be every parent's worst nightmare. You may deal with cranky children at first, but in the end, your child will be sleeping better at night. Infants usually take two naps a day until they're about 18 months old. The morning nap is the first to go, and then around age 3, the afternoon nap goes away as well. By age four, your child should be functioning through the day without a nap and sleeping all night by themselves. However, during a particularly stressful or busy day, even a four year old needs a short nap. Use your best judgement. If you think your pre-school aged child is tired, let them rest for a bit.

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By Erin Petrun