8 habits baby & toddlers need to stop, and when to do it

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Parenthood is one wild ride. One moment you’re decorating the nursery and buying your unborn child a bumblebee costume (blame it on pregnancy brain!). The next, you’re a mum, looking after a brand-new person.

Although some parts of parenting come naturally, others are a bit trickier to work out. We’re talking about the big questions, like ‘how long is too long for a bottle?’, ‘when should Ms Two leave the cot?’ and ‘how do we ditch the dummy without causing World War Three?’

Here are eight habits that experts say babies and toddlers need to drop, and when. Of course, you should always do what feels right for your family. Good luck!

1. Ending night feeds

Do it when:

Your night owl is at least six months old and developing well. Experts say there’s no rush to night-wean breastfed babies or phase out overnight bottle feeds, but it is an option if bub is healthy and mum is hoping for a bit more sleep at night!

Try this:

If your baby is breastfeeding for less than five minutes or slurping 60ml or less of bottle milk, then do a switch-a-roo and swap their night feed for another settling technique, like a soothing pat on the back.

For longer or larger night feeds, gradually reduce them until bubba reaches that five minute/60ml mark. Then replace the feed with another settling method and it’s “sayonara” to moonlight feeds!

2. Ditch the bottle

Do it when:

Your baby celebrates their first birthday, or thereabouts. Experts say a baby should be bottle weaned by the age of one and not later than 18-months-old, and there are a few reasons for this. Constant bottle-sucking can lead to tooth decay and ear infections; it puts the focus on drink rather than other nutritient-rich food, and a bottle makes it tricky for bub to practise talking and using their hands. Plus, toddlers are strong-willed, so it’s easier to break this habit before they hit the Terrific Twos!

Try this:

The aim is to replace the bottle with a cup. Some babies might be okay with a ‘throw the bottles away’ approach, while others take things better if you gradually replace bottle feeds with cup feeds. It might help to reduce the amount of milk that goes in the bottle, or replace it with water. Keep cups in clear view, think about adding a fun straw, and don’t stress if it takes a month or more to banish the bottle. Old habits die hard.

3. Getting rid of day nappies

Do it when:

Your toddler can tell when they’re a buster! Toilet-training is a fact of life, but try not to rush it. The Better Health Channel says children need to be between 18 months and three years old to recognise they need the potty, so wait for cues before teaching them. Things like showing an interest in the toilet, keeping a dry nappy for up to two hours and announcing, “I’m doing a poo!” for all to hear.

Try this:

Once your toddler is ready for toilet-training, replace their day nappies with undies (except when napping). Dress them in clothes that are easy to pull down, give ‘gentle reminders’ to use the toilet, praise successes and be casual about accidents. Washing their hands with a ‘special’ soap teaches hygiene and a sticker reward chart might work a treat.

If things aren’t going so well after a week, put the nappies back on and try again in a month. Also, getting rid of night nappies usually takes longer, so try to keep that relaxed approach going!

4. Moving out of the cot

when to move child from cot to bed

Do it when:

Your two-year-old is climbing out of their cot lemur-style, mastering the art of getting up for a night pee or they’re kindly making way for a new baby. The experts say there’s no hurry to move toddlers to a ‘big bed‘, however, any time between two and three-and-a-half years is a good age. This is an exciting milestone that brings independence – and leg room!

Try this:

Your toddler will have free reign in their room (yikes!), so do a safety check of the area. You can put their cot mattress on the floor at first, or move them into a toddler bed or single bed with rails. Tell your toddler how proud you are, involve them in the setting up of the new bed (hello big bed party!) and settle into a good bedtime routine.

Oh, and if your toddler is moving out of the cot to accommodate a new baby, shift them a few months before bubba is born or once the baby is a couple of months old. No-one likes that ‘kicked out’ feeling!

5. Stopping breastfeeding

stop breastfeeding baby toddler

Do it when:

The time is right for you and your bub. This could be when mum’s had enough (that’s okay!), your baby loses interest, you’re trying to get pregnant again or it’s just not possible or practical to breastfeed.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond, but all mums and babies are different. The Australian Breastfeeding Association says, ‘Every breastfed baby is eventually weaned, be it after a few weeks of breastfeeding or a few years. When this happens is really a matter for a mother and her baby and their personal circumstances’. Sounds good!

Try this:

Once you decide to stop breastfeeding, take a gradual approach, giving your baby and milk ducts a chance to adjust. The AMA recommends that you start by dropping the feed your baby is least keen on, then remove one breastfeed every few days or week.

If your baby is under 12 months old, replace their breastmilk feed with a formula one, and if they’re over a year old, then cow’s milk is a fair swap. Just make sure there are lots of mummy cuddles, even if there’s no mummy milk.

6. Ditching the dummy

stopping dummy baby toddler

Do it when:

The time feels right – or your child announces that they’re over it. The Raising Children Network says parents are best-placed to decide when the dummy will go, regardless of other people putting in their two-bob! That said, dummies may increase the chance of childhood dental problems and respiratory infections, so they’re not exactly a life-long accessory.

Try this:

Once the decision is made, there are some tried and tested ways to ditch the dummy. See what works for your family – the Dummy Fairy, a reward chart or that lucky moment when it falls into a muddy puddle and becomes a whole lot less appealing!

7. Dropping the afternoon nap

drop afternoon nap preschooler

Do it when:

Your afternoon napper is bouncing up and down on the couch with nary a yawn in sight at 10pm. Different kids need different amounts of sleep, and experts say that about 25 per cent of kids stop napping by the age of three, another 50 per cent stop between three and four, and by five, most have dropped their daytime nap. Just make sure preschoolers get enough sleep at night – about 11 to 13 hours – to keep them happy, healthy and developing well.

Try this:

Some kids don’t look back once the afternoon nap is dropped, while others will need a bit of a chill out to replace it. Reading a book or having a lie down is a good way to recharge their batteries without ruining their night sleep.

8. Moving out of the stroller

getting rid of stroller toddler kids

Do it when:

Your kid looks like Gulliver compared to their stroller! Oh, we jest, but there is definitely that point when a child looks too big for their ride, and experts think that around two-and-a-half to three is a good age to start transitioning out of a stroller. Although the pace might be slower, walking is important for your tyke’s fitness, balance, coordination and instruction-following, so let’s get marching three-by-three, hurrah!

Try this:

Start by using the pram half the time or alternating between walking and wheeling. Perhaps swap the pram for a scooter. Another idea is to park a few streets from your destination and walk the rest of the way, and piggybacks give tired legs a boost too. There might still be a place for the stroller on big days out, but this will lessen as little legs get stronger. Go team!

All set? Here’s some more useful tips for raising a toddler.