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Our toddler has recently, since moving into T-shirts rather than romper suits, discovered his belly button.

He now spends quite a lot of time with his hands up his shirt, or when settling for bed, with his hands in his sleeping bag playing with it.

Unfortunately this has started to lead to it becoming a bit red and irritated so we'd like to try and discourage him if we can. We're also trying to keep his fingernails as short as we can.

Any suggestions?

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If you can find a soft toy that has a belly button, that he can sleep with...it might help. When the toddler is playing with his belly button, distract him by asking him to play with the toy's belly button. – Swati Apr 3 '12 at 17:26
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Band-aid (a big one) — maybe?

Every time he does it, ask him to remove his hand (I am sure you have tried this, but be very very consistent).

If he is in school tell them what you are doing, so they can do the same thing.

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In the end we just went with trying to tell him to stop each time. The couple of times we did try and cover it (with surgical tape) he complained that his tummy had gone. – Dan Kelly Mar 18 '13 at 10:26

My daughter picked her belly button until it bled and we use band aids. Pretty sure it won't cause body image issues. Everyone seems to be insane on this topic. It's one thing to discover it but if it's irritated and raw from that yes you should stop them from messing with it.

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Just let him play with his belly button. He is just enjoying his body and he wont really harm/destroy it. What do you think could happen in worst case?

This habit will stop sooner or later. Just don’t make a problem out of it. Keeping the fingernails short is a good idea anyway.

Real problem?

Nobody (not even a child) would harm himself without reason. Excitement? Stress? Any illness or invisible injury (inguinal or umbilical hernia etc.) that causes this behaviour? You should go and ask a paediatrician.

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What's with the downvotes? Often doing nothing is the best solution: if it's not an actual problem, don't make it one. Bandaids, insisting that he not touch etc it will just lead to unnecessary drama and possibly even body image issues. – jpatokal Mar 12 '13 at 1:01
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The problem is that in playing with it, he is scratching it and making it sore - and it's not exactly an easy place to keep clean and dry. – Dan Kelly Mar 18 '13 at 10:25

You cant stop the child from doing it. Ive done it from since i can remember and im 21 now. Its an anxiety thing. When they are anxious it will be worse even if they dont think they are anxious. The more you try to stop them the worse it will get because they will be anxious about stopping. It has a nerve inside that they scratch until it hurts. The worst thing my parents did was cover it and try to stop it. I still to this day cant figure out how to stop it. Take him or her to the doctor and maybe they can help with this anxious habit but the more attention you give them about it the more they are going to want to stop and because they are thinking so much about stopping they cant stop. Just accept them for this. Its hard when parents say its weird and gross. My parents still try to stop me and it just makes me more nervous and do it more. I wish they would stop noticing. It is a very embarressing thing when you get older. Especially with the people that have fetishes about bellybuttons. That makes me feel sick. It is not a fetish. Its an anxious habit that is uncontrollable for me.

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Hi mikaela - while your story is an interesting datum point, you don't actually answer the question. It is possible to stop children doing this, as evidenced by other answers, and in fact it could have helped you if you had been able to stop, if you look at your final 2 or 3 lines... – Rory Alsop Mar 29 at 11:22

It's a habit. I do it and so does my daughter.

You can't stop them from doing it because it's only gonna make them frustrated and upset; imagine a kid that sucks a thumb or fingers and trying to stop them, it's hard.

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This answer doesn't address the problem in the question; namely, that the toddler is causing physical damage by doing this. – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 16:07

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