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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 17:26

5 Answers 5


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.

  • 3
    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
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 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.


My granddaughter does this only when she's going to sleep. We tried really hard to get her to take a pacifier but as she was breastfed she didn't want anything to do with it or a bottle. I don't think it's a problem she just soothing herself...

  • How old is she?
    – L.B.
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 15:33

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.

  • 1
    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. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 1:01
  • 6
    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
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 10:25
  • 2
    @DanKelly, sure, but as this answer points out, if it starts hurting him he'll likely stop playing with it because of the negative reinforcement. If he doesn't stop even when it hurts then it's a sign of other issues which is why the recommendation is to ask a pediatrician.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 20:23

but leaving them to do anything they want doesnt always work. My little brother stopped doing it after a while (we didnt mentioned it to him a lot), but he has again started.It is hard to stop because they are children. Even adults cant stop a bad habit that soon. You just gotta be patient and remind him that what he is doing isnt good and causes damage and harm to his o her body.

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