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Infant has started behaving strange and demanding things. How to control this?

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Practicing since : 1982
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Hi, My baby girl is 15 month old now. She is too stubborn and has a habit to shout if her wishes are not filled. Kindly advice.
Also second problem is she needs a continuous feeding during night, which becomes discomfort for my wife and cant sleep.
Posted Thu, 25 Apr 2013 in Growth and Development in Children
Answered by Dr. Taher Kagalwala 32 minutes later

It is not uncommon for toddlers to demand things, but if parents keep fulfilling their every demand, the problem gets aggravated. Both of the problems you have addressed are related to the same underlying mess: for long you have been satisfying all her needs, including giving in to her every night by not refusing her when she asks to feed, and all the other things you have been doing (which you haven't listed, but I suppose they have to also do with her unrealistic/too frequent/irritating demands throughout the day.

Successful parenting is a myth, and most parents stumble through life either giving in to all the kids' wishes or becoming strict and punishing them repeatedly. I have seen that the former is the case with middle class families (as the parents usually go for 1-2 kids and shower all their love on their kids) while the latter is more often seen in poor families (where the parents CANNOT find the means to satisfy their kids' demands and end up shouting at them or beating them.

The key to this problem is to create a balance that is based on your resource-availability (both time and money) and an appreciation of the fact that some demands will HAVE TO BE REFUSED either because they are inconvenient (e.g. getting up in the night to feed the baby repeatedly), unrealistic (e.g. the baby demands something outrageous - like, my brother beat me, so I want you to beat him for me) or simply impractical (the baby wants to jump from an unsafe height, for example). Some demands, may, in fact, be not just the above three, but be positively XXXXXXX These you will deny her in the common course of events.

The question then arises as to how to refuse a demand by your most precious child. The answer is by simply saying, politely, but firmly, NO. Say this when the demands are in the categories I have listed above. She may shout, hit you, punch you or cry incessantly, but please do not give in. Do not shout at her or beat her ... but be firm in your action. In the long run, she will cry to sleep (you can delay each night-time feed for an increasingly longer time till she learns not to wake you up for feeds at night) or sulk away or not come to you when you call her for a short while. In the end, though, she has no option but to listen to you, and she will.

In my experience, bottle-fed babies are more troublesome than breastfed ones, so if your baby is bottle fed, you must immediately stop it, and feed her only with a cup and spoon. If breast-fed, you may stop it gradually, as some benefit is likely to accrue from this biological method of feeding milk.

Stubbornness will go away gradually, and some toddlers may take years to grow out of it.

Hope this helps.

- Dr. Taher Kagalwala
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Infant has started behaving strange and demanding things. How to control this? 17 minutes later
Dear sir, thank you for your response, these inputs will really help. However i need a suggestion - how to gradually decrease the breast feeding, frequently throughout night? This is leading to incomplete sleep for both. Also she is not ready to take outside milk by both means, bottle and cup. Please advise. Thanks.
Answered by Dr. Taher Kagalwala 5 hours later

Expect a month or so of trouble. As I already mentioned in the first reply, you need to wait for some time before giving her the feed. Initially, you may wait for 5-6 minutes, letting her fret, before offering her the breast; as days go by, increase this duration to more and more time. Gradually, the number of feeds will reduce by 1, then 2, and so on, till the gap between the night feed and the next feed will equal a whole night of 6-8 hours. It is that simple ... and that difficult. I understand your wife's and your anxiety, but believe me, this is the ONLY way. Let her learn to wait. When she initially wakes up, she will be fretful. This is not hunger, it is just her need to suckle ... a sort of psychological need. As the fretfulness increases, she will begin to have short cries. Ignore her. Let her remain unsatisfied. Tell your wife NOT to give in to her by sitting up and exposing her breast to the baby. She must remain lying with her eyes closed. You should also behave in the same way. She will walk over to her mother and try to open her eyes and cling to her or even scratch her face with her hands. Ignore her.

After the waiting period previously decided by you, you may proceed to feed her. No need to give a cup or bottle. Slowly, the progress will be measurable in minutes, then hours. Increase the waiting by 5 minutes every night.

In the end, your patience will win over her stubbornness.

Wish you good luck.

- Dr. Taher

P.S. One rather effective way of reducing night feeds is making the baby sleep in her own cot ... and if possible, in a separate room. However, knowing the circumstances and culture of India, this last action may not be possible. However, making her sleep in your room but in a separate cot will definitely work.
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