Dummies can be a great tool for calming and comforting little ones.
They certainly have their uses in the first year of life, however it’s advisable to try and ditch the dummy by the age of one. After this age, dummies can begin to create problems for your growing baby.
It can certainly become more difficult to convince your child to part with their beloved dummy as they move into and through toddlerhood, but the dummy can also negatively impact speech and language as well as their teeth.
The longer your baby uses a dummy, the more chance there is that the structure of their mouth will be affected. This means it will affect how their teeth meet when they close their mouth or when they bite. This can not only impact on their baby teeth, but their adult teeth later in life too. Read more about how to look after your baby’s teeth here.
It’s also very hard to learn to speak with a dummy in their mouth!
It’s completely normal to feel a little worried about how your baby will react and cope when you first take their dummy away. Although they may show their unhappiness at first, it’s good to remember that babies and children are very adaptable, and it should only take a few days until they adjust to life without a dummy!
How to ditch the dummy
There are different ways to approach ending dummy use, and it’s your decision which way you go about it. Once you have decided on a method that works for you, it’s important to remain firm and consistent with your decision in order for your baby to be able to adjust to the change and not get confused.
Some parents prefer to gradually wean their baby off of the dummy; this can be done by beginning to offer the dummy at nap and bed time only, before eventually removing it completely. Other parents feel that the gradual approach may confuse their baby and so decide to remove it completely.
Often parents and carers are anxious about how their child will cope with the idea of not using a dummy any more, but most children adapt within a few days.
Whichever way you choose, below are some tips you can follow:
- Offer something else as a comforter in place of the dummy; this can be a specific teddy or a small blanket
- Once your baby is asleep, take the dummy away
- If your baby wakes in the night, try to comfort them without giving them back the dummy
- Remove dummies from the home or keep them out of sight
- Never let your baby babble or talk with the dummy in their mouth. This will stop them from learning to speak clearly
- Depending on their age and level of understanding you can prepare your child for what’s going to happen. For example, you might say: ‘Tomorrow we’re going to say bye-bye to dummy because you’re a big boy/girl now’
- You can ask your child to collect all their dummies into a bag and then leave them out for the fairies/Easter bunny/Santa to collect. You could leave a small gift to replace the dummies
- Give your child praise and encouragement, and if they haven’t mentioned the dummy for a while, try not to remind them!
- You may want to use an incentive such as a sticker chart to show your child how well they’re doing
- If your child asks for the dummy, you can either explain to them that they can only have it at sleep times or that we don’t have the dummy anymore. You can also use distraction by quickly diverting their attention to playing and having fun
- Consistency really is key. Once you have decided to ditch the dummy, yourself and all those who care for your little one must stay consistent
- Lullaby Trust- Dummies and Safer Sleep
- NHS Guide on Childhood Health & Well-being for children aged birth – 5 years
- Leicestershire Healthy Tots- Oral health
- NHS- Soothing a crying baby
- Institute for Health Visiting: Supporting your child to wean of bottles and dummies
- Health for Under 5s- Bye-bye bottle, hello cup