Getting your baby into good habits

If you're baby's a troubled sleeper or fussy eater it doesn't have to be like this. Here's how to get him into good habits early...

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We all know the importance of getting your baby into a good routine, whether it’s sleeping, eating or soothing herself. It’s up to you to make sure he gets into good habits right from the start. Read on to find out how…

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1. Self-settling at bedtime

When your little one won’t settle, the temptation is to do the settling for him by rocking, feeding or even driving around the block. But in the long-term it’s best if you try to deal with the problem. The key is self-settling -teaching him to settle without help from you.

BABY HABIT BUILDER
Have a bedtime ritual. Give your baby his milk feed in a soothing environment, give him a cuddle and put him in his cot or Moses basket before he falls asleep. If he cries, gently pat him to comfort him, but stop as soon as he’s soothed and leave the room. Repeat this until he drops off.

2. Loving new foods

When you’re weaning your baby, it’s easy to give him foods you know he likes – and avoid those he tends to be fussy with. However, it does pay to persevere. Before you decide that your baby really doesn’t like something, you should offer it to him on at least 10 separate occasions. “There’s a window of opportunity between six months and a year when babies eat pretty well, so this is a good time to introduce new flavours,” says children’s food author Annabel Karmel. “The best way is to mix fish and meat with sweet root vegetables like carrot or sweet potato.”

BABY HABIT BUILDER
Don’t be put off when your baby refuses something. Praise him when he eats, and don’t rush him.

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Allow your baby tummy time during the day to help his muscles develop

3. Building his muscle strength

Nowadays, it’s acknowledged that the safest way for your baby to sleep is on her back. This has led to many babies not getting enough ‘tummy time’. Indeed, a study by The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) found that 19 per cent of mums of babies up to 6 months never gave their babies any play time on their tummy.

It’s important to let your baby spend time on his front during the day in order to help him develop strength and muscle control, especially in his upper body, chest, arms and abdomen. It also reduces the risk of your baby developing a flat head.

BABY HABIT BUILDER
It’s important to make this time fun. Place your baby on a blanket or mat, and interact with him. Current advice for newborns is to aim for a few minutes of tummy time, two to three times a day, and gradually build it up.

4. Weaning him off soothers

Although it’s fine to allow your baby a dummy or soother, it’s also a good idea not to let him get too attached to it. Certainly if he needs it to sleep and it falls out during the night he may cry and wake you until you get up and put it back. “Many mums choose to use dummies, but weaning your baby off one is a step towards independence for him,” says Lorraine. “The key is not to think that taking the dummy away is bad. It can be challenging, however, so do it at a time when you’re feeling happy, positive and motivated.”

BABY HABIT BUILDER
Dummies can help in weaning a baby off a night-time feed but remember to take it away after your baby has finished sucking. Let him discover his own means for calming himself.

5. Lengthen his attention span

It’s tempting to buy a new toy each time you take a shopping trip, but while it’s nice
to have plenty of things for your little one to play with, don’t overdo it. Paediatric occupational therapist and co-author of Baby Sense, Megan Faure, believes you can help your baby learn to play constructively by not overwhelming him. “If a baby is surrounded by toys, he’ll pick one up, examine it and then drop it, and move on to the next one. He’ll look at the toy, but won’t properly explore it,” says Megan. “But if, for instance, you give him a cake tin, he’ll explore the sounds it makes, turn it over, bang it and so on. The simpler it is and the less it does, the more work your baby has to do to fully explore it.”

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BABY HABIT BUILDER
Less is more. Don’t overwhelm your baby with toys, allowing him to focus on one thing will keep his attention on that item for longer.

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