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We seemed to have fallen into a sleep routine where my two-year-old will not go to sleep without bread. He will ask for it, and basically goes to sleep sucking it, (he starts by eating it, but there will be one bite that he just sucks until he goes to sleep).

It has started to worry us that

  1. It's embedded in the routine
  2. He might choke on the bread as he falls asleep sucking it.

Everytime we try a "no - bread" approach he is awake long into the night, and we have so far given in (I know that kills it). We have just got over a period where he wasn't really eating his dinner and then demanded a sandwich at night by continually getting him out of bed to eat his dinner instead.

We are wondering whether it really is something worth worrying about and how we would get him to stop. We have even considered trying a dummy (that he has never had before), but that seems like a backward step, but it does seem safer.

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My concern would be tooth decay- bread might not be sweet, but it's chock full of carbohydrates and for sure prolonged exposure to food right before bed (and without tooth brushing afterward) is a host for cavity-causing bacteria.

"Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria in your mouth that feast on carbohydrates, be it sugar from candy or starch from wholesome foods such as bread." from Livescience.com The Truth about Tooth Decay

We got serious about this issue after reading the NY Times article "Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities"

We fell into a similar trap with milk before bed. We decided to put in an inflexible rule: toothbrushing happens at the end of our bedtime routine, and after that, only water is allowed. Now, that can create a similar problem - our daughter demands water (and sometimes a lot of it) right before going to sleep. But I'd rather worry about a wet bed on occasion than about her teeth needing fillings.

I imagine the transition will be tough; any habits, especially bedtime routine habits, are hard to break. Decide on what the rule will be and stick with it.

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It seems that your two-year-old is experiencing some sort of emotional distress that the bread is helping to relieve.

Do you know why bread is so important to him? Is it specifically bread, or just food of any kind? Is it the sucking on it that placates him, or do you think he is actually hungry?

Depending on your situation, I could see a few different potential actions:

  1. If he's truly hungry, you could try feeding him a snack right before brushing teeth (maybe get on pyjamas, read a story while eating bread/something else, then brush teeth and get into bed).
  2. If he just wants something to suck on, I think using a soother/pacifier (I assume that's what you mean by "dummy") is fine. If that's what gives him comfort, let him go for it, and when he doesn't need it anymore, he'll give it up. If you're concerned about him (or you) being ridiculed for using it, emphasize to him that it's only for sleeping, and it gets put away first thing in the morning. Alternatively, a chew-toy of some sort (like babies use for teething) might fit the bill.
  3. Could he have security issues around food? Perhaps something that was said or done (even inadvertently) gave him the impression that there might not always be access to food, so he's trying to make sure he gets enough before it's "all gone." Try getting ahead of the situation by deciding for a full week that you will offer him bread at bedtime before he asks for it. I would not be at all surprised if after not much more than a week, he decides he doesn't need it anymore.

There could potentially be other issues at play, too. In my mind, the most crucial thing is to determine exactly why he's requesting bread (hunger, emotional insecuity, food issues, etc.), and act to alleviate that particular problem.

Two years old is too young to expect any sort of "disciplinary" approach to work. He wants bread because he wants bread, and telling him he can't have it, no matter how carefully-explained and logical your reasoning, will be met with the logic-defeating response, "But I WANT it!"

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    Great answer; can't imagine why it got a down vote. "f he just wants something to suck on, I think using a soother/pacifier is fine." I agree. He clearly needs to self-soothe to sleep (hence sucking on... bread?). This whole answer is quite informative. – anongoodnurse Nov 28 '15 at 1:47

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