Dummies, pacifiers, soothers - whatever you call them they all do the same job and they all split parents’ opinions.
Some mums and dads never give their baby a dummy, while some swear by them to help calm and quiet tearful tots. Others may have planned to be dummy-free but changed their mind with the need to soothe their little one.
It’s completely up to individual parents and babies whether a dummy is right for them but if you choose to use one it’s important to know when and how to wean your baby off it.
What age should I wean my baby off their dummy?
It varies depending on how reliant on a dummy your baby is.
Before the age of three months, your baby will be too young to really miss the dummy and won’t make much of a fuss so you may find it easiest to do it at this point.
But if you’ve given it to them because they need a little extra comfort and reassurance you may find that they go back to being difficult to settle without the help of one, defeating the object of using one in the first place.
It’s recommended you try to wean your baby off their dummy before they turn one as they may affect the development of the teeth and jaw. However, modern dummies are made to orthodontic specifications aimed at preventing dental problems so they’re not as harmful as older models may have been.
And don’t forget your child is permanently attached to a pacifier of her own – her thumb - so try to take things at your child’s pace.
Ideally, begin to reduce your child’s dependence on their dummy from six months, with the aim of getting rid of it altogether by the age of one.
How can I convince my baby not to use their dummy?
Try going cold turkey. This can be tricky and it’s easy to give in but children have short memories and you may just find it works.
If that’s too harsh or causes the rest of the family too much anguish, try to reduce dummy use gradually. Allow a certain number of times your child can use the dummy each day and slowly reduce it every few days.
Next, set some boundaries such as allowing it only at bedtime or only in the house.
If you’re weaning an older toddler off a dummy, talk to them about it. Explain what you’re doing and let them feel like they’re making the choice. You may want to suggest they give the dummy away to a younger sibling because they’re too grown up for it now.
Similarly, try reading a story about giving up a dummy. ‘I want my dummy’ by Tony Ross, for example, is ideal to help your little one understand why they have to give up their dummy and they can identify with the characters in the story.
Or, you may find your child will happily give up the dummy in return for a toy. Yes it’s a slight bribery, but worth it. This may be easier when combined with reducing the amount of time they’re allowed the dummy.
Finally, keep your child distracted. The busier your little one is, the less time they’ll have to miss the dummy. Get them creative with paints and crafting, head outside and play some games or have fun baking in the kitchen.
What if they still demand a dummy?
Some children grow very attached to their dummy and parents can be at their wits’ end trying to get rid of it. If all the above combined has failed, try making up a fun story such as telling your child that you’ve given the pacifier to her favourite cartoon character who’s taken it on an adventure.
Another trick that sometimes works is to cut the end of the teat and say the dummy is broken. Be sure not to let her have it back though, as it could pose a choking habit if more of the teat comes off.
If your child’s taking longer than you expected or putting up more of a fight to keep a dummy don’t let it get you worked up or over anxious. It’s a common experience and the best you can do is make sure you don’t give your child any extra attention or they’ll continue to act up in order to get a reaction.
Be as positive as you can and reward good behavior rather than punishing bad. You can offer small ‘bribes’ and rewards in return for doing without the dummy for a set period of time and be sure to use plenty of praise when they doesn’t use it. It can take time but eventually they really will grow out of it.
Do you have any great tips for weaning tots off their dummies? Share them in the comments below.
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