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Giving up the dummy

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There is nothing wrong with giving your baby a dummy, in fact The Lullaby Trust endorse their use in the first 6 months of a baby’s life as research has suggested that using them can decrease the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Dummies can often provide such great comfort for little ones, especially newborns, without relying on mum or dad to help. 

We often get asked ‘when should we get rid of the dummy’? The answer very much depends on each individual child, as the bottom line is that dummies aren’t a problem… until they are!

The problem arises when your little one becomes dependent on the dummy to transition between sleep cycles. As with any sleep ‘prop’, if they rely on it to get to sleep and then when they inevitably wake up between cycles (approximately every 45 minutes) and the dummy has fallen out, they will protest until someone comes to put it back in for them (that said, there are some relatively rare children who use a dummy to get to sleep and then don’t need it for the rest of the night, I’m afraid they are relatively rare).

When working with little ones over the age of 6 months we recommend removing dummies completely. This is often met with a look of panic by parents, but, in our experience, the thought of getting rid of it is far worse than the reality and sleep improves once they are no longer a factor, usually within 2-3 nights. However, it is fine to keep it if parents really don’t feel comfortable removing it – it has to be something everyone is on board with.  

If you do decide that you are ready to remove the dummy, in our experience the best way to go about this – is just to do it. Go ‘cold turkey’ and commit to it. Ensure you have got rid of every last one hiding in the house, your bag, the car, grandma’s house! That way the temptation to re-introduce it isn’t there. It’s also super important to remain consistent once you have removed it. If it’s gone, it’s gone – it doesn’t suddenly reappear for a long car drive, or if your little one is grouchy one day, this will be really confusing for them.

So, if you are thinking you would like to remove your little one’s dummy – here are our top tips on how to do it:

  • If they don’t already have one, introduce a comforter or teddy bear to help ease the transition and give them something to focus their attention on during the night (it can be useful if you have slept with it so it has your scent, and therefore offers even more comfort)
  • Be prepared for the first 2-3 nights being tough. Know that you have met all your little one’s needs (i.e. they are clean, fed, warm). You just aren’t giving them what they want – and this will take a little bit of getting used to on their part. However, one of their biggest needs is uninterrupted sleep – which they will soon be getting as a result of this!
  • How you go about physically removing the dummy depends on what suits your family the best. Going cold turkey works well up to 18 months, however after this point your toddler will have formed a strong attachment to their dummy and you will need to be a little gentler on them in order to remove it:
    • Prepare them – toddlers LOVE predictability. It helps them feel safe and secure. No-one likes feeling like they have had the rug pulled from under them, especially toddlers!
    • Make sure everyone is on board – mum, dad, grandparents, childcare – everyone must be singing from the same song sheet so that your toddler doesn’t get confused
    • There are various strategies for involving your toddler in the removal of their dummy, you may have heard of parents using ‘the dummy tree’ whereby your little one leaves their dummy in a little bag tied to a tree and then in the morning it has been replaced with a treat for them. Be creative – tailor something to suit your child. There are also stories you can tell about ‘the dummy fairy’ to spark your child’s imagination in the run up to the change.
    • Take it slow – start with removing the dummy from non-soothing situations, so if they have got into the habit of having it at other times during the day, remove it then and use other distraction methods. After a few days, once they’ve got used to not having it all the time, remove it for naps and bedtime.
    • The main point for toddlers and older children, is to have realistic expectations and to be consistent, patient and confident. You have made the decision to get rid of the dummy as it is no longer working for your little one – it’s now your job to help them through this transition by supporting them but being 100% consistent!

If you are concerned that your little one’s dummy is causing more sleep problems than it is solving them, please do get in touch – we would love to help you all get some more sleep!

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