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Is it time to ditch the dummy?

Dummies get a lot of stick…I remember as a first-time Mum really wanting to introduce one because my newborn was screaming for hours every afternoon/evening…but I just felt so judged, for no reason at all, it felt like it was such a bad habit to start. Needless to say….I reached breaking point and decided it had to be worth a try, it worked an absolute treat for us, she settled quicker most nights and my anxiety about taking her out was soothed by the fact I knew I had a dummy with me which would often calm her down.

There are so many pros of using a dummy including:

· Reducing the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

· Helps babies to self soothe.

· Uses their sucking reflex, which is very calming for them.

However, what was once my lifesaver became my sleep destroyer when she hit about 5 months old. The dummy began to fall out overnight and she would wake EVERY time but she was not old enough to find and replace it, this is the first time we had to consider ditching the dummy and it came slightly earlier than I had assumed. There are of course cons to counteract the pros of dummy use:

· Risk of nipple confusion if introduced too early with a breastfed baby.

· Can adjust tooth alignment or delay speech if used too late.

· Can cause sleep associations and disturbed sleep? (the exact issue I faced)

When to ditch the dummy? If you are one of the lucky ones with a baby who can fall to sleep with a dummy and continue snoozing even when it falls out then the dummy is probably not causing you too many issues and you may wish to continue using one for a little longer. However, if you are facing a similar problem to mine, it may be time to consider ditching the dummy. I personally felt that it became more of a hindrance than a help at this point in time. However, that is not to say it was easy to get rid of, it really was quite tough. However, in hindsight, I imagine taking it away from her now (at 20 months old) would be a real struggle so I am glad I faced the situation at the early age and do not have to fight a toddler. At around 8 months, babies go through a leap where they begin to develop object permanence – they know something exists even when they cannot see it. Therefore, it will be slightly easier to say goodbye to the dummy before this age if you can. However, please do not fear, if you have a toddler who is using a dummy, getting rid will be a challenge but not impossible.

How can I get rid of the dummy? Getting rid of the dummy will have some challenges at any age and certain methods will work best for various ages. If your baby is under 12 months, the best method may actually be to go cold turkey. Take it away completely and never go back. This is how we did it at 5 months and we suffered two tough weeks where she did not know how to self-settle for naps and sleeps. I nearly caved MANY times; however, I was lucky that when we agreed to get rid, we binned them all so that we could not cave. Once she hit 6 months, we introduced a comforter which helped her to self-settle and he has been attached to her side ever since.

Between 12-18 months is a real limbo period, going cold turkey may be particularly tough as they may ask for it, however they won’t understand some of the concepts listed below which work better for older babies. My advice between these ages would be to try and gently wean them off. You could start by having no dummy during awake hours but letting them have it for sleep. Then slowly cut it for day naps and when they have mastered another way of self-settling here, try to take it away for night time.

However, once your child is over 18 months, they probably have quite a bond with their dummy, taking it away without a single word would be torture. When you have decided it is time to get rid, prepare your child by talking to them about what is going to happen. Toddlers like to know what to expect and this will really help in the run up. Try not to time this event with any other major change in a toddler’s life such as the arrival of a new sibling or moving from a cot to a toddler bed, as too much change is overwhelming for them.

As you approach the day you are going to say goodbye forever to the dummy, begin to limit the use, you can do this by only allowing it at certain times of day or in certain locations such as their bed or the car. Try to introduce another security object such as a comforter for them so that they feel safe and calm. Try to tap into something your child likes…for example, if they love fairies and unicorns, you can use the trusty dummy fairy, write a letter and leave it out in exchange for a gift. If they love diggers, leave it out for the digger men who will leave the gift. I have also heard of parents taking children to a build-a-bear shop where they put the dummy inside one so that they know it is still near them at bedtime.

Remember to stand firm, you don’t want to confuse them, once you’ve agreed it’s gone, stick to your guns and they will get used to it in time. It is a big change for them, they need patience and lots of comfort but consistency is key – Good luck!

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