Dear David Coleman: My daughter 'humps' to fall asleep. How can we help her stop?

Q From when she was about 18 months old, our now four-year-old daughter, has “humped”, in order to fall asleep. She will tell me to leave the room when storytime is over so she can start humping against clothing or teddies.

At times she is in an utter sweat from the urgency and duration of it. We have tried to distract her with more stories or sitting with her but it seems she is unable to “just fall asleep”. How can we help her find a more natural way to attain sleep?

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Answer: Two-and-a-half years of a nightly behaviour will establish an extraordinarily deep habit in child just four. However, the “humping” itself is not problematic or unusual at her age.

Children are often fascinated by the sensations of touching or grinding their genitals. It is good that she already recognises that this is something to do in private. If it is restricted to sleeping time and she doesn’t rely on it for self-soothing at any other time in the day, then it may not be anything you need to intervene with.

Indeed in order to intervene, you’d have to entirely deconstruct her sleep routine and that may actually lead to more distress for her and, consequently, for you. If you need her to stop, maybe it is worth waiting till she is older and can discuss it properly with you and hopefully collaborate in order to change her habits.

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