How To Ditch The Dummy Without The Drama
Updated: Oct 10
Let me start by saying that there is nothing wrong with letting your little one have a dummy.
Dummies can be a great comfort for babies. They help little ones to satisfy their natural desire to suckle. This desire can often lead to babies feeding when they are not actually hungry, which can disrupt their natural feeding cycle. A dummy is a great way to offer them comfort without them “snacking” all day long.
Evidence also suggests that using a dummy for sleep from 4 weeks to 6 months can reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 40%. Check out the Lullaby Trust factsheet here.
However, there are some downsides to extensive or prolonged use.
While they can help little ones to fall asleep, they can also lead to lots of disturbances when it falls out of their mouth once they are asleep and need it to be replaced.
The dummy rainbow
From the age of about nine months, they can start to replace the dummy themselves. To encourage this you could give them a dummy rainbow. Place 4 or 5 dummies in their cot in a rainbow shape above their head. This means that when they wake they will easily find a dummy to pop back into their mouth, and the theory is that they won’t have to cry out for help.
If you find that you’re having to do the “dummy run” constantly throughout the night, it might be worth thinking about ditching the dummy altogether.
If the dummy is not causing you sleepless nights, your little one is not becoming overly attached to it and they aren’t making demands to use it outside of bedtime too, then, by all means, keep the dummy. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
From about 6 months the dummy serves little purpose aside from comforting - the recommendation is to stop giving it to them between the age of 6-12 months.
Obviously, we want to give our little ones comfort, but we need to be mindful that a dummy is not the only way to comfort them.
Other downsides of the dummy
Do keep in mind that as children get older, dummies can start to have some other negative effects
Cause tooth decay
Interfere with speech development
Make it difficult for the teeth to align properly
If you are concerned about the effects of dummies on your child's teeth, talk to your dentist.
So it’s time to ditch the dummy
If the dummy is no longer working for you, then I’ve got some simple steps to put in place to make the transition away from it as stress-free as possible, depending on their age.
If your child is younger than 18 months, then you can reduce how much they are using it for sleep. You could allow it for sleep onset, but not for re-settling once it has fallen out.
However, I believe the best strategy is to just go for it. Get rid of the dummy completely and introduce other methods to help them adjust to the change.
Yes, they will be annoyed, we all resist change, but the benefit of uninterrupted sleep for them outweighs a couple of disgruntled nights.
Tips for 0-18 month children
Replace the dummy with a comforter or snuggly (one that is age-appropriate). You can do this gradually by letting them have both for a few nights.
Resist substituting the dummy with a physical interaction from you, such as rocking, feeding or holding to sleep. I teach a variety of tools for helping little ones to fall asleep independently. You can look at my page for some ideas, or book a free call and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.
Don’t have a spare one kicking around for emergencies. Once you make the decision to stop using it, stick with it. We don’t want to send mixed messages.
Tips for 18 months plus
If your child is 18 months or older, then you’ll need to approach this differently.
Start by talking to your child about what is going to happen. Explain that they are getting too big for their dummy and that they will no longer be able to use it at bedtime.
Give your child a few days to adjust to the idea. Start to reduce how much they are using it during the day, and drop it into conversation away from bedtime. When they are having breakfast or maybe on a car ride.
Get creative and tell a story. You can introduce them to the dummy fairy, and explain that the fairy is going to collect all of their dummies to give to babies that need them. Take your little one on a dummy hunt and put all of the dummies in a bag outside for the fairy to collect. In exchange, the fairy will leave them a new comforter, snuggly or toy that can now be their bedtime companion that helps them to sleep.
Be prepared for some crying and fussiness. It is normal for children to resist change, so be prepared for some tears. Remember that there are other ways to comfort your child, and once they feel reassured they will adjust.
Be patient and consistent. It may take some time for your child to adjust to the change. Be patient and consistent with your new bedtime routine, and your child will eventually learn to fall asleep without the dummy.
Don't give in. If your child starts to cry for the dummy, don't give in. Just offer them their comfort object, reassure them and stay calm.
Some other creative strategies you can try
If you want to try a slower approach on the lead-up to ditching it, you could make them less appealing. Snip a little hole in the teet, or prick it with a pin. This will reduce the suction and stop it from “working”. Meaning they want to use it less. (Make sure they can't ingest any small pieces of it).
One mum took her child to build a bear, and they put the dummy inside, so now every time she has a cuddle with the bear at night she has the dummy with her.
Make it seasonal. Leave them out for Santa or tell them the Easter Bunny collected them.
Tell them their favourite cartoon character needs them.
The key to successfully ditching the dummy is to be consistent. Like I said, we all resist change, but we also adjust really quickly.
You might think you’re going to have a long drawn out battle on your hands, but they will probably surprise you, and after a couple of tricky nights they’ll be on track.
If you want more specific help, or have any questions drop me a message. I love hearing form you.