Ditching the dummy (and the bottle!)

Dummies can be a great tool for calming and comforting little ones, but by the time they’ve reached toddler hood, children need to have given up the dummy as overuse can impact speech development.

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.

How to prevent dummy dependency

  • Before you start to use a dummy, think about other ways that you could comfort your child, such as a soft toy
  • As you become more used to soothing your baby, start to reduce the number of times you offer the dummy. You can start this from around six months of age
  • Once your baby is asleep, take the dummy away
  • Don’t give your baby the dummy out of habit, only use it to soothe them when they’re tired or upset
  • Never let your baby babble or talk around the dummy, this will stop [your child] from speaking clearly and, longer term, the growth of his teeth will be affected.
  • Don’t have lots of dummies around, you need to be in control so put them away out of reach until you need them to soothe your child

Weaning your child off their dummy

  • Start by preparing them for what’s going to happen. For example, you might say: “In three days we’re going to be finished with the dummy, I know you can do this”
  • Limit the time it is used to nap time and bedtime. Keep the dummy in the bedroom, not elsewhere
  • If your child asks for the dummy, explain that they can only have it at nap time or at night, and then quickly divert their attention to playing and having fun
  • You may want to use an incentive such as a sticker chart to show your child how well they’re doing. You need to be clear about when they get a reward, and be consistent
  • 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 can leave a small gift to replace the dummies
  • Once you’ve committed to getting rid of the dummy, enforce this consistently, and make sure other caregivers do the same

Banishing the bottle

By the time your child is a year old, they should have stopped using bottles with teats. The main concern with giving toddlers sweetened fluids (including milk) to drink from a bottle is that it can lead to tooth decay.

By one year old, your child will be able to hold a cup and drink from it, so start to introduce an open cup or free flow cup with a lid for all drinks from six months of age. Your child will then start to get used to sipping rather than sucking. Provide breastmilk, formula milk or water only.

Using a cup at mealtimes will also give your child independence and help them to feel part of the family mealtime experience. Give lots of praise for using the cup. If you use a bottle as part of the bedtime routine, try offering a cup of milk with an evening snack, then continue with the bedtime routine, bath, story and teeth brushing. Offer a blanket or soft toy to cuddle instead of using the bottle.

If your child keeps asking for the bottle, keep calm and positive and offer alternative distractions such as playtime, a toy or a story. Keep bottles out of sight and make sure that all of your child’s other caregivers including grandparents and childcare providers are doing the same.

Free baby bottle swaps

In Leicester City Council Children, Young People and Families centres and some dentists across the city, you can swap your old baby bottle for a free drinking cup. This is to help introduce drinking from a cup from six months and to stop drinking from a bottle by the age of one.

Find your nearest Children, Young People and Families centre or dentist offering the free baby bottle swap initiative on our interactive map:

Useful links

ChatHealth logo

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

You can also call and speak to a public health nurse on our professional advice line: 0300 3000 007

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