Self-discovery — It sounds like a refined and reflective time in one’s life where a person explores their inner feelings and emotions. Unfortunately, when it comes to toddlers, this moment can become quite literal. For the parents who discover that their 3-year-old humps to fall asleep, here are some ways to circumvent the issue and reinforce new coping mechanisms.
This is an age where they are exploring everything and repetitive behaviors sometimes arise in times of stress or change. Sucking their thumb or rubbing a blanket against their face can give them comfort and allow them to self-soothe.
Understanding that this is a common behavior among children is key.
Rule Out Health Issues
First and foremost, if you notice that this is a new habit, it is first important to determine if there is an underlying issue that is causing the behavior.
It could be possible that your son or daughter is experiencing a yeast infection, diaper rash, contact dermatitis, or eczema.
This can lead to the rubbing and itching of the area, which you may be interpreting as humping. If you do notice redness, swelling, discomfort, or changes in their bathroom habits, make sure to contact their pediatrician immediately.
This can help to rule out medical issues that may be causing the action. Although this is not common, making sure that they are not experiencing a health issue is important.
Look At The Big Picture
It is important to remember that everything is new to your child. This action of humping that teens and adults interpret as sexual is actually a comforting and or inquisitive mechanism for kids between the ages of two and six.
This is especially the case for boys. “Several theorists have conceptualized the bodily self as a distinct aspect of early self-development.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child becoming aware of their private parts and being curious about others is completely normal at this time in their life. However, there is a fine line between behaviors that are common and those that could signify another issue.
Determine The Trigger
First, take note of when this behavior occurs.
There is likely a trigger that just needs to be addressed. Did they get enough activity that day? Did they eat their food at dinner? Did something upsetting happen at preschool? Has their schedule changed in any way? Have they been sick? Are they potty training?
Many times, they are engaging in this action as a way to cope with things that they don’t know how to articulate. Over time, you can determine a pattern and what is setting off this behavior.
Work on establishing a schedule and ensure that they are getting plenty of regular exercise. This can aid in proper sleep and help to limit the instance of and supposed need for humping to drift off into la-la land.
Then, on days where you notice that your child is stressed or anxious, ask them to tell you about their day.
What made them happy? What made them sad? Talk about your feelings and tell them stories about how you went through similar instances and how everything was okay in the end. Let them know you love them and are always there for them.
Establish A Regular And Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Like mentioned before, when a 3-year-old humps to fall asleep, it might be due to stress.
A great way to combat that is before bed, play relaxing music to help them calm down. Give your child a bath with lavender baby soap. Then, use the same techniques recommended for infant massage using lavender lotion.
Researchers have actually proven that “lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants”. These same practices can be used with your toddler to gain similar results.
Further studies have shown that the “administration of lavender odor showed a trend towards an improved quality of daytime wakefulness and more sustained sleep at night.” This “natural remedy [for treating] insomnia [can] improve the sleep quality”.
Keep in mind that with children, there is always a cause and effect. It is important to work towards creating positive daily habits to achieve beneficial outcomes for proper and effective sleep patterns.
Handle The Issue Delicately
When your 3-year-old humps to fall asleep, try to ignore the action. In most instances, this behavior will go away on its own.
However, if you feel the need to stop it from occurring, take away the pillow or stuffed animal that they are humping.
Remember that it is imperative that you do not shame them or make them feel as if they have done something wrong. They do not interpret this action in the way that you do and they are likely doing it unconsciously.
Additionally, this method will only work some of the time. There is the chance that they will just find another object to do this with.
Also, do not forget that children thrive on routines. Small changes can have big impacts on their emotions, behaviors, and sleep habits. Be vigilant about keeping your nighttime schedule intact, especially during the holidays and on vacations where activities are drastically different from the norm.
Subtly Distract Them
If your 3-year-old humps to fall asleep, another tactic for altering or stopping this type of behavior is to distract them.
When the humping begins, ask your toddler “Are you not tired quite yet?”. Then, inquire if they are hungry or if they would like to read a story. It is clear that they are struggling to go to sleep so find a more appropriate way to get them to get into that sleepy state.
Two of the biggest triggers for this action are a lack of activity in the day and hunger.
A small snack or a fifteen-minute period of chasing them around the house can help to wear them out and get them into a more restful state.
Remember that redirection is sometimes the best method for success with changing self-soothing habits.
Therefore, if they restart the humping even after addressing certain triggers, consider diverting back to the tried and true soothing methods for infants. Sit and snuggle with them. Gently scratch or rub their back. Sing to them.
You can even pull out their glider and rock with them. They are likely looking for comfort so help them to achieve it in a more appropriate way.
Put on some entertainment
Another way that helps 3-year-olds become distracted from humping before falling asleep is to provide them with some entertainment to watch before going to sleep.
Putting on a movie or a show they like to watch will knock them out and it will be easy to put them to bed without having to worry about them humping their way to sleep.
This was an approach that many parents and I took as we were raising our children and it works!
At the age of 3, any form of entertainment after a long day will surely put them to sleep due to them having low energy.
Final Thoughts — 3 Year Old Humps To Fall Asleep
Patience is a virtue for a reason. The habit of humping will not go away in a week or even a month.
Keep your emotions in check and continue working with your 3-year-old to achieve new ways to cope with stress and struggles.
Also, remember to discuss appropriate behaviors for when they are inside and outside the home. If the humping occurs during their nap time at school, it can cause you quite the headache and an awkward conversation with their teacher.
Thus, if it is taking longer for this behavior to diminish, sit down and have a positive and open discussion about ways to calm ourselves before bed and nap times.
Most importantly, there seem to be no triggers in place and you have patiently tried to work through this habit with no avail, consider talking to your pediatrician about your 3 year old’s humping habit.
While most of these startling habits will go away with time, extreme repetition that does not cease with distraction or alternative measures can be an early sign of Autism and other developmental disorders.