How To Stop Unwanted Behaviour In Babies

One of the benefits of being a mum of 3 is you learn from experience right? All those worries about parenting from the first time round are a thing of the past surely? Nope. Every child is different, every child is a new challenge, but more than that: there is a huge amount we forget. Especially in that first year when we spend much of it in a sleepy haze of nappies, feeding and cuddling. 

Having blogged for nearly 10 years now I have an amazing record of some of the best and worse times in my life. Recently I have been reading through my old blog and looking at what content I want to pull across. The posts show me how much I have changed, but also how much I have forgotten. I wrote this post when my eldest was 8 months old about her behaviour, what I was doing to stop her bad behaviour and how hard I found some days. There are parts of it I could have written when my youngest was the same age; so many of the feelings were repeated.  I think the main thing experience has taught me is to be more gentle on myself, we are all doing our best.

Good Days, Bad Days, I've Had a Few of Those 

Originally Published 28th May 2012

On Saturday I had a bad day.  Baby M refused to go down for her morning nap until 3pm despite being grizzly and tired.  We got close a few times, but something always went wrong.

The night before we hadn't had too bad a night considering Baby M has her first tooth coming through and her nursery is the hottest room in the house.  I haven't got a clue how many times we woke up though or how long she fed for.  I mostly just latched her on and went back to sleep. So maybe it was because I hadn't had a lot of sleep that night, or for weeks, maybe there was no excuse, but she was really annoying me.

My Baby Keeps Hurting Me

I love my daughter more than I can say, but I don't always like her.  Yesterday she seemed to be beating me up more than usual: pulling my hair, pinching me (she's currently perfecting the pincer grip) and head butting me. She isn't doing this intentionally: she's either playing or upset. Every time she hurt me I got unreasonably irritated to the point that I went on strike and told my husband he had to take care of her.

It wasn't just the pain that was getting to me, but what it says about me as a mother.  I know all babies tend to pull hair, but Baby M does it a lot and I can't seem to stop her. It's just one of the many things she does that I seem to be unable to stop including: biting me while feeding and putting dirty things in her mouth. At times yesterday I had a vision of being a mum of teenage hooligan, knowing that I tried hard and wanted the best for my child and not knowing how she grew up into the sort of person who had no respect for other people or their belongings.

Stopping Unwanted Behaviour In Babies

I try to stop Baby M doing the wrong things.  From my psychology degree I know that one of the most important things about your approach to parenting is consistency regardless of what you are consistent in doing, but I can't make anything work.  So I try one approach, then another and then give up completely.

The first approach I used was "just say no".  When Baby M was doing something wrong like trying to drink from the cats' water bowl I would say "no" in a disapproving voice.  This was either completely ignored or met with a big grin.

At baby clinic I was given another piece of advice.  They said that saying "no" can actually encourage playing up because the baby is getting attention, effectively rewarding the bad behaviour. They also pointed out that if you are saying no all the time then you risk "No" being their first word.  Instead it was suggested that I use distraction eg take away the shoe she was eating and replace it with a toy with no big fuss.  I should also try playing with one of her toys myself in the hope that she would come and play with me.  That would involve her paying some attention to me, no such luck.

The distraction or swapping method works in that she stops doing the undesired activity, but that's only because she physically can't continue it. It works particularly well in the first 6 months before object permanence kicks in: out of sight is out of mind.  Now as she is mobile if she really wants to play or eat something, say the TV remote, she will keep reaching for it where ever it is moved to.  We currently have a lot of stuff balanced on high shelves in our living room out of reach.  So far this approach doesn't seem to stop the behaviour from being repeated as soon as the opportunity arises.

How To Stop Babies Biting While Breastfeeding

The advice I have read about stopping biting during nursing has followed a similar pattern.  The first approach I used was to take her off my boob, say "no" and put her down.  Many mums have claimed they only had to do this once or twice and the biting stopped.  Not for me.  Baby M either bites or doesn't, what I do seems to have little to do with it.

Similar to the distraction method I read some different advice on Kelly Mom about how to stop biting during nursing (I can't find the article now). They advised taking the baby off, giving them a teether and saying something along the lines of: "oh you aren't hungry then". This worked sometimes, but often resulted in shorter feeds more often each one ending with a bite.

When I asked for advice on a baby forum about biting the general advice was that babies bite while feeding for 2 main reasons: either teething pain or for fun. They generally do the second type when they have had enough food and are starting to get bored.  If there is teething pain use teething gel before a feed, if boredom learn to recognise the warning signs and unlatch them before it happens.  And use lots of nipple cream.  I'm not sure that the Baby M is always biting for one of these reasons as she sometimes starts biting mid feed, but it doesn't happen every feed or every day so I have followed the advice about digging out my little purple tube of magic.

Making A Judgement Call

When I'm at my most tired I make a judgement call: just how much harm is likely to come to her from chewing that flip flop? After all I've walked on that floor in them, she's crawling on it then sticks her hands in her mouth.  Isn't that the same thing? In that example probably not: the shoe is dirtier, but you get the idea.

I know that she is gradually understanding more and more and one day I will be able to use logic and explanation to stop her doing things she shouldn't.  Until then I guess we will just have to keep taking things away and giving her toys instead, hoping that she doesn't do anything when we aren't looking that causes lasting damage.

No comments