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Your Bad Baby Habits

I honestly can't recall how my son Anthony's Binky habit got so out of control. He was an angelic baby, the easiest of my three. Maybe it was because he was always "plugged." His 2-year-old sister was giving me a run for my money, and I did whatever it took to get through the day.

I knew I was in trouble, though, when Anthony was 2 and we made an emergency trip to the dentist after he fell off his sister's bike. He'd taken a bite out of the driveway, and a front tooth had turned black. The dentist took one look at him and said, "I'm a lot more worried about that pacifier he's so fond of." "How did you know he has a pacifier?" I asked, since of course he didn't have one in his mouth at the time. The dentist explained, "One front tooth is shorter than the other," which is a telltale sign of prolonged pacifier use.

Clearly, the pacifier would have to go. But I was feeling guilty about taking away a source of comfort, especially after the fall. I overlooked his habit for several months. Then when Anthony got his heart set on one of those scooters all the other kids had, we made a deal: Toss the nipple and get a new set of wheels. Once the novelty of the scooter wore off (after about 24 hours), he asked for the Binky again. And again. But I held fast to our agreement and, surprisingly, after about a week Anthony moved on.

Whether it's sucking on a pacifier or bottle too much, needing to be rocked to sleep all the time, or requiring silence to snooze, babies can easily fall into some bad habits. And while those habits are seductive for moms because (let's face it) they buy us some peace and quiet, we might later come to regret them. The detrimental effects can range from pricey dental work to obesity  -- and chronic sleep deprivation for you.

Of course, by the time you realize your baby's "addicted," it's twice as traumatic to wean him off his habit, says Maureen O'Brien, Ph.D., a mom of twins and coauthor of the book series Watch Me Grow. But it can be done. Five baby habits to try to avoid from the get-go, and how to break them even if you're already in deep: