I expect you’re reading this if your little one has a dummy. Not only that but you feel it’s become more of a hindrance than a help? They’ve become rather attached to it and you can’t see a way to ditch it? Maybe it’s constantly being lost at night and you’re fed up and exhausted with the sleep disruptions? Whatever the case, it’s ok. We’ll go through everything together in my stress-free way of how to ditch the dummy. So by the time you reach the end, you feel you have a do-able plan to ditch the dummy, whether you have a baby or a toddler.
Pros and Cons of Using a Dummy
When to use a Dummy
The guidelines from the Lullaby Trust and the NHS is that a dummy shouldn’t be introduced before 4 weeks of age. This is to ensure breastfeeding has been well established and your baby isn’t confused with the sucking of the dummy and the suckling for milk. A dummy may be especially beneficial for a premature baby as the sucking of the dummy can help to prepare them for breast or bottle feeding as they transition from being tube fed.
It’s also recommended that a dummy may be a good idea in those early 4 – 30 weeks as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS as the use of a dummy encourages your baby to be on their back more during sleep and this is thought to reduce the SIDS risk.
Guidelines also suggest you remove the dummy from your baby between the ages of 6 – 12 months. Of course, the reality is that when the dummy works to relieve your baby’s upset or soothe them to sleep, it can be hard to choose to take it away. I’ve cared for many babies with dummies and also toddlers who have had a dummy at two years old. In my experience, it can be the anxiety of the parents that’s the bigger issue! As your little one grows, it’s important to be aware of potential risks to their speech and teeth when they frequently use a dummy.
Top Dummy Tips
Always encourage your baby to put their own dummy back in their mouth and don’t do it for them. It’s usually from around the 8-month mark they can start to do this for themselves.
Only offer a dummy for sleep and upset times and not consistently during the day. Try to find out what the problem is.
Never dip a dummy into anything sugary. A fast way to tooth decay.
Take the dummy away as soon as they are calm.
There is some useful glow in the dark ones which can help little ones find them at night. Here’s a great one from 6 months and also one from 12 months.
Keep an eye on the dummies, make sure they are always sterilised and check for any wear or tear then replace when necessary.
If your little one is trying to talk with their dummy in, it could affect their speech so always remove it when they are making sounds, babbling or chatting.
Dummy Ditch Plan
So before you make any decisions about removing the dummy, think about these things…
How old is your little one? Are they a toddler and chatting? How old they are will depend on your action plan.
Think about the reason you want to ditch the dummy. Is it to make your life easier or theirs? Are you concerned about their speech, teeth or feeding?
Do you have some support about you, partner, family, close friends? It can be challenging to ditch the dummy then find it such a struggle, you cave in and give it back!
Really think about choosing the right time to ditch the dummy. Make sure there is stability at home such as maintaining a routine, no illnesses or major disruptions like starting nursery, a parent returning to work, starting a new nursery or with a new nanny or childminder.
Ultimately, you’re taking away a sleep aid they rely on for sleep so I really do believe it needs some thought. There’s 3 ways I use; gentle dummy removal, cold turkey with a gentle strategy and gifting the dummy. If your child is having naps then I strongly suggest you begin with nap times first. These can be easier to tackle before moving onto the nighttime.
Gentle Dummy Removal
This strategy involves keeping the dummy but removing it once they are asleep and continuing to remove it closer and closer to when they fall asleep until you are able to remove it altogether.
I suggest for at least a week prior to starting this (whether they are napping or not), adding in some elements to enhance their sleeping environment for nighttime sleep. Things such as pink noise or gentle music, lavender scent, blackout blinds, red night light and a transitional object – a comforter which can be a small soft blanket or muslin (perhaps enhanced with the smell of mum). Make sure you have a consistent bedtime. Check out my post for tips: how to have the best baby bedtime routine for a calm nights sleep.
In the same week, add in other sleep reassurances such as patting, rocking, shushing or stroking. Do not stick to one! Mix it up a little so they get used to some other ways to fall asleep.
Settle them to into their cot with their dummy and once asleep, wait 10 minutes then gently remove the dummy.
If they wake and cry for the dummy, offer it back and repeat the above step. It may take a good few days to accomplish this.
This way does take some patience and some little ones respond better to this method than others. Once you’re able to remove it after 10 minutes of being sleep, reduce it to 5 minutes.
After a few more nights, reduce it down to a minute.
Once you’re able to remove it after a minute, try removing it between your baby relaxing into sleep and falling asleep.
Now soothe your baby to sleep without using a dummy at all.
This gradual, gentle dummy removal can take about 4 weeks to implement. Take your time. Gentle persistence is the key. This method can work well on babies from 6 months to about 2 years. Once past this age, another method might work better as they are able to understand a lot more and communicate with you!
Cold Turkey + Gentle Strategy
This method means removing the dummy altogether but replacing it with another way to help them to sleep, such as your presence in the room while they fall asleep.
I’d also add in the same points as above when thinking about their sleeping environment:
For this method, I suggest taking the dummy away for all sleep including naps. You may find it easier to have motion naps for the first few days such as in the sling, buggy or car. If you do settle them for naps in the cot or night-time sleeping environment, I advise using the same method you use for the night time.
For example, if you choose to lay by the cot with them at night time and offer verbal reassurances such as ‘shush, sleepy time’ then do the same at nap times. I would be careful to not create new habits such as rocking, cuddling or feeding to sleep as this will become another issue further down the line. If your little one needs some reassurances, mix them up so they do not become reliant on just one. Gradually reduce the reassurances you offer them as they teach themselves to sleep without the dummy with your support. Again, this method is ideal from 6 months.
Gifting the Dummy
This method works really well on older toddlers who have an understanding of the concept of saying goodbye to the dummy but whom it feels really hard for. If they are nearly 2 years or more then that’s a long time in their lives to have had their beloved dummy and will be quite attached to it. The real task in this method is feeling like YOU can see it through. So often, I’ve heard stories of families offering a wonderful gift (one was even a new bike!) in exchange for the dummy as the dummy fairy was coming. This particular little girl (who was three) refused the bike and insisted on keeping her dummy, and her parents agreed! I’m not suggesting this is not ok – I’m just checking that you are committed to saying goodbye to the dummy too. It can sometimes be the case that parents are a little reluctant as it’s a sign of ‘babyhood’ and especially if this little one is their last little one, it can feel hard for them too.
There are several ideas of things you can say here. I’m not suggesting lying to your toddler! Just bending the truth to fit the situation. Here’s a few examples of things I’ve known to work:
The babies need your dummies now so the dummy fairy will come and take them away for the babies and leave you a gift.
All your dummies are broken now and so the special dummy fairy needs to come to take them away.
Let’s leave your dummies for Father Christmas / Easter Bunny to take away to give to the babies. They will leave you a present.
When it’s their birthday party (or someone else) wrap up all the dummies as a gift (make sure you have a lovely gift in exchange for them!) and make it a special event.
For any of these gifting the dummy ideas to work, it’s really important to discuss it with them in the days and weeks prior so your little one gets used to the idea. Don’t just spring it on them! You might like to create a chart together or use stickers where you can count down the days until the dummy fairy is coming. You could also help prepare them by reading books about ditching the dummy.