Tips for ditching the dummy

In the early sleep deprived newborn days a dummy can be a godsend for helping an unsettled baby go to sleep. However, as your baby grows into a toddler, dummies can cause more problems than they solve.

After hours of crying, there’s nothing better than seeing your baby’s tired eyes close as he or she sucks contentedly on their pacifier. You’d be forgiven for questioning how something so wondrous could become a problem - but it can.

Why can dummies be a problem?

If a toddler has been using a dummy since they were only a few weeks old, they can become dependent on it to get to sleep. It becomes a real problem if he or she wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t find the dummy. Suddenly the whole family can suffer the consequences.

In addition, dummies have been associated with health problems. Young children can experience dental issues such as an overbite as the upper teeth can be pushed further forward than normal. There can also be issues with speech development as children with dummies may have fewer opportunities to explore language with a dummy in their mouth.

When should I ditch the dummy?

Choosing when to ditch the dummy can be difficult. Make sure you don’t remove it through a time of particular upheaval such as a new baby arriving, starting day care or moving house.

Removing the dummy from about the age of one is thought to be best, to reduce the chances of speech and dental issues later on.

Boy playing with a toy horse

How do I ditch the dummy?

Whatever age you decide to ditch the dummy, it’s potentially going to be quite distressing for you and your toddler, so it’s best to come prepared with a few differing approaches.

  1. Send the dummies to the ‘dummy fairy’
    This is a popular technique for children who are old enough to understand the concept. Explain to your toddler that you need to post the dummies to the ‘dummy fairy’ as there are some brand new babies that don’t have any pacifiers. Some parents sweeten the deal by leaving a new present for the toddler in exchange.

  2. Use distraction
    When your toddler starts asking for it, distract them with something else like a toy or take them outside for a walk. If the dummy is a source of comfort in the evenings, a soft toy or a blanket could be a good alternative to help them sleep.

  3. Gradual weaning
    If you prefer the gentle approach, you could gradually get your toddler used to not having the dummy. Try to increase the amount of time you wait before handing it over each day. Next step is to try to limit the dummy to just sleep time, then remove it during the day naps so it’s just at bedtime. Eventually they’ll realise they can nap during the day without it and will go without at night too.

  4. Cold turkey
    For many parents, just removing the dummy and dealing with the consequences can be the simplest way. You can either warn your child that the big day is coming or one day just take it away. No matter which approach you take, make sure you don’t back down, even if the tantrums seem mammoth. Some parents advise to just throw the dummies away to avoid the temptation of backing down.
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