The Dummy Run!

Does your child use a dummy? How do you feel about it? How old is too old for dummy?

So many parents say they won’t let their child have one but then become a parent and realise the benefits of dummies for young babies. They are a source of great comfort and actually have been shown to reduce the risks of SIDS. But at what stage does a dummy become a problem and how can you get rid of it?

There is really no harm in giving a baby a dummy. It supports their natural reflex to suckle and is comforting to them. As long as breast feeding is established, breastfed newborns can have them too. Many babies come to rely on a dummy for sleep and many parents allow a dummy for sleep but not for any other time of day. This is good practice and if you have a rule like this, stick to it. If you bend the rules for one reason one day, he will expect the rules can be bent anytime if he makes enough fuss.

Using a dummy for sleep can be very helpful but it can also become a hinderance. If a baby uses a dummy as a comfort to settle to sleep, that is fine. If a baby NEEDS a dummy to get back to sleep AND need YOU to replug it – the dummy has become a sleep crutch and you need to address this.

Here’s the rules:

  • Baby has a dummy to fall asleep and, once asleep, it drops out. Do not replace the dummy for him.
  • Encourage your baby to be in control of his dummy use – This will be age dependent but once he has the pincher grasp, he should find and replace his own dummy. You can encourage this by showing him where it is or temporarily putting it in his hand and then eventually just pointing at it so that he learns that he has to do it himself.
  • Some people put a number of dummies in the cot to make it easier for baby to find one.
  • If your baby is too young to replace his dummy himself, once it falls out, you leave it out. This sounds scary to parents because replacing it feels like the path of least resistance to get him back to sleep. That may be true right now but by ingraining this sleep crutch, you will be stuck doing the ‘dummy run’ all night for many many months. Get this right now and it will pay off much sooner!

When should I get rid of the dummy?

This is a personal decision but most people do not enjoy seeing a toddler learning to talk with a dummy in her mouth. Even the parents who have an older toddler with a dummy, usually do not like it but just do not know how to go about getting rid of it.

The benefits of a dummy for young babies are not so effective once they reach 6-12 months and the SIDS risks subside anyway.

If the dummy becomes a hinderance, it is time to say goodbye to it. It may be a hindrance with speech, with eating or with sleep. My own son’s reliance on a dummy for sleep was the very thing that was causing him to wake in the night. When we took it away, he slept through the night on night one without it! It was more of a disturbance for him to lose the dummy in the night and want it back than it was to just deal with no longer having it. Sometimes there becomes a point when it is no longer a sleep aid but a sleep hindrance.

How can I go about actually getting rid of the dummy completely?

There is no such thing as weaning a dummy. Children rarely give up the dummy of their own accord until aged 5 or so, when school and pier-pressure come into play. So it is up to you to take action if you want the dummy to go. The only way is ‘cold turkey’ and often the parents are more attached to the dummy than the child because the parents’ fear of the repercussions is far worse than the child’s actual reaction.

If your child is old enough to understand a basic story, and even if they are not, because they will still pick up on a lot more than you realise – it can be a nice idea to tell a little story about why all the dummies have gone now and they won’t be here anymore.

Some examples:

  • The fairies have to take them to all the new babies that are being born
  • Santa or the Easter bunny will swap them for gifts/eggs if you leave them out for them to take away
  • “You’re so clever that you don’t need them anymore so they have gone to the little babies who need them now.” (avoid ‘grown up’ because not all children are happy about being grown up and want to still be your baby- which of course they are).

You can be as creative as you like and use something your child can relate to. There is no need to frighten your child with any great dummy funeral or have the child throw them in the bin as that can be a bit dramatic and sad for them. Just make them all disappear and then tell the child calmly and reassuringly. It can be a nice gesture to have a gift or reward for your child when you break the news for being so brave about it.

It may take a few days for your child to adjust. Some accept the change faster than others and often the older they are the more difficult it is for them to ‘kick the habit’ but they all get there in, probably less time than parents expect them to.

No going back – Once you make this move, you cannot go back. Not for any reason or excuse. If you do, your child will find it very hard to believe you mean it, next time you try. For you own sake, you must get shot of them all to remove all temptation of pulling one out in the heat of a challenging moment.

Be brave, do it today!!

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