How do I get my 18 month old to stop sticking his finger down his throat?

Q: My 18-month old has no problem going to sleep by himself in his own crib, but if he's not tired and it's bed time, or he hears us in the living room, he wakes up and cries. I can handle the crying, but he likes to stick his finger in his mouth and make himself gag to the point he throws up. How do I stop this or handle it?

A: One of my 4 kiddos did that too. Yuck! Your son is doing his best to get your attention -- and he has discovered a pretty potent way to do it. It's a fine line to walk -- you don't want to give him too much reinforcement by paying extra attention to the behavior -- but you can't just let him barf his way to what he wants.

Here's what we used to do: Sit beside the crib to soothe and calm our little guy, while explaining "It's time for night night. Mommy will be right here until you fall asleep." Over a period of weeks, soothing him in his crib -- instead of in the living room -- started to work, as he realized we weren't going to take him out of his room. If he got worked up enough to the point where he was likely to hurl -- we'd pick him up to soothe him in his room, and put him back in the crib when he calmed down. This "broken record" technique eventually worked -- but it did take a few months. Hang in there!

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles