As a mum of two I know what a worry, and how incredibly hard it can be to get little ones to give up something they love. My daughter was a dummy sucker, my son (still is) a thumb sucker, so I understand that worry and that dread of making a change.
There are lots of ways to ditch the dummy that have allowed me to help little ones over the years. Every child is different, so although one technique may work for one child, it may not for another. In fact, you may have to try several different techniques before the dummy is gone forever. Here are some of my top tips.
1. Take it away early!
I can hear you crying into your coffee now, but honestly – you’ll thank me for it later. I wish I’d taken the dummy away from my little girl long before she turned two. There’s a very important reason to take it away early too: sucking a dummy or pacifier constantly can have a big effect on speech and teeth.
Having said that, not all dummy-sucking is equally damaging. It’s really about the intensity of the sucking and the tongue’s thrust that deforms teeth. Little ones who rest their dummy passively in their mouth, more as a comforter rather than sucking it, are less likely to have dental problems than children who suck aggressively.
With this in mind, when your child talks to you – make sure they take their dummy out. Try and get your little one into this routine from a young age by letting them know you won’t listen unless their dummy is out. You don’t have to be cross – just say ‘I can’t hear your words with your thumb there, can you say it again without your thumb?’ It’s even better if, like I did with my daughter, from a young age, you keep dummies for bed/naptimes only.
The other reason for removing it earlier is babies are less likely to kick up a fuss than toddlers. Trying to reason with a toddler who has had a dummy to hand for two years is much harder than taking one away from a 5 month old baby who has only had one to settle at bedtime.
2. Go cold turkey.
This method is how my daughter gave up her dummy. Well, I say ‘gave up’ she had no choice, poor poppet! Unlike the thumb – you can take the problem of a dummy away. Sometimes, going cold turkey is much easier than parents think it will be, and sometimes it’s not. Choose a method that works for your own child.
4. Give it away
If your child is old enough to understand the concept of fairies, get imaginative. Make up a fun story about giving it away to the dummy fairy or even Santa if it’s that time of year. With this method, you are giving your little one power to make their own decision. If they do give it away, reward with lots of praise. You could even trade something for the dummy by getting Santa or the fairies to leave payment in the form of a much wanted toy or treat.
5. Take it away gradually
A slow, gentle process is much nicer than ‘cold turkey’ but it can take some time for this to work. As mentioned before, by restricting the dummy to nap/bedtimes from a young age, it’ll be easier to say goodbye to it when the time comes. If, however, your little one has it ALL the time now, start restricting it. Tell them they can still have their dummy but only at bedtime.
9. Read dummy books
I love books for dealing with tricky situations. From toilet training to tantrums – books give an insight into issues that little ones find hard to grasp and are ideal for talking about giving up their comforter. Try Florrie the Dummy Fairy, Bea Gives Up Her Dummy or The Last Noo-Noo.
10. Just wait
If your little one only has their dummy at bedtime – I’d wouldn’t worry too much. Unless the dummy is having a huge impact on speech and teeth, (this can happen if sucking is constant and aggressive) your little one will likely give up their dummy in their own time. Having said that, I’ve know some 5 year olds who have flatly refused to stop the dummy sucking! Lot’s of negotiating and trading helps with older children.
Nursery age children may get teased by their peers if they go with a dummy – this is a harsh lesson to learn so young, but can put a quick stop to dummy sucking ways.
Whatever dummy ditching method you use, try and make it as un-stressful as possible for all of you. If your little one is terribly upset, try something else. There’s really no need for tears at bedtime.