One of babies natural reflex is to suck. So they tend to suck on their fingers, on your breast (if you’re breastfeeding), on their toys and on their pacifiers/dummies for comfort.
Many health professionals recommends that we need to start restricting dummy uses after they turn 6 months old, and end them when they turn one. However, because every child is different this is only a guide, and is not set in stone.
Although we may have different reasons why we want our child to ditch the dummy, here are some that we might not be aware of:
Increased Ear Infections:
Prolonged use of dummy have resulted in a proven link of ear infections. When a child suck on the dummy, there is a big chance of infection back tracking from the mouth to the Eustachian tube (the channels that run from the ear to the throat). Because baby’s tube is very small, it can easily get blocked.
Stomach and other infections:
Because dummies may contain many germs, they can be proned to pose many risk of children suffering symptoms of vomiting, fever, diarrhoea, and colic.
Prolonged use of dummies can affect teeth growth and development. Especially when children start to have their second set of adult teeth. It is recommended to always use orthodontic pacifiers which is widely available at your local chemist/baby store.
Sometimes toddler with dummies prefer to point at various objects to get their message across rather than speaking. Dummies need to be removed prior to speaking to get them to properly speak.
From when the toddler was a baby whenever they get upset or cry, we gave them the dummy. It makes them programed to associate dummy as a comfort tool. Now we suddenly want to ‘de-programme’ bub to think that they don’t need dummy anymore. They suddenly have to give up something that they love and have given them a source of comfort.
As a parent these are several steps that can help you and bub to achieve the goal to get rid of the dummy FOREVER!
Step 1 : Get your child feel involved
Don’t get rid of the dummy / soother / pacifier just like that. The best way would be to involve the child in every step and make them feel that it was partly their decision too!
Sit them down, speak softly, clearly, at eye level and make them understand. Explain, in a simple way and use whatever term and phrases that your child feel most at ease with, that because they are now a big boy or girl, they don’t need to use their pacifier all the time. Insert jokes, make them feel grown up and valued.
Don’t say that they can never use their dummy anymore. That will be for the next step.
You may be met by tantrums, tears, and screams of “no” “no” “no”. But this is actually a good sign that means that they understand what you’re saying. Reinforce this conversation at least once a day. Don’t put too much pressure on the child as it will not help them to achieve the goal.
Don’t set a time scale. Be patient, as anger will not help you get the result that you want.
Step 2 : Wean your child off the Dummy slowly
To get your child to give up the dummy, you will need to remove a habit that has formed in their mind. You will have to get them to get used to the idea of not having a dummy anymore, to get them to see that they can cope now having a dummy to settle and can be happy without the dummy.
As a parent, your child is totally dependent on you, they need your guidance to teach them how to live a happy and healthy life. Patience is virtue, there will be testing times ahead of you.
It is your choice, in how you’d like to perform this step, you can try one of the below that you might think will fit you and your child’s personality best.
- Time based. Choose a time let’s say 9-10am. In which during this set of time no matter what happens your child won’t get their dummy. You may or may not tell the child about this, but whenever they get upset and cry, use any other method to comfort them other than the dummy.
- Remove the dummy whenever it’s not needed. Everytime your child seemed uninterested in his/her dummy, remove it. Out of sight out of mind. Sometimes a child just want the dummy whenever they see it, so the best way to take it out of their mind is when they can’t see it.
- Lost and found. Pretend that the dummy is lost. Turn it into a game of trying to find the dummy. Obviously, you hide it in a place where they can’t find it. Use this as an opportunity to distract their attention to something else. Get them to read a book, play a toy etc.
- Your own way! You know your child and your family best. Their needs and behaviors may vary. Use any method that you can think of that you think might suits your situation best.
Another good tip is to never let them have a favorite dummy. Always change dummies, different color, different style, etc. Don’t familiarize them to any particular dummy.
Step 3 : Alternative methods of comfort
Up until now, your children’s dummy is their source of comfort. So in order to get them to ditch the dummy, you’ll need to find them an alternative. Obviously we’re not going to bribe them with toys and gifts. We can’t swap the dummy with something that they’ll later have to give up again. We have to swap the dummy with comfort from you.
Try to see it from the child’s point of view. Communication would be the best way to find out and to remedy the situation. Ask them how they feel, in soft tones, hold their hands, give them hugs and show them that you care.
Distraction can also be another surefire method. A good way to distract them is by taking them to the bathroom, run the water and let them play with it for awhile. Children love running water. Let them put their hands and feet, and maybe also read them their favorite story.
If all still fails. Give them back their dummy, it is obvious that we still have not reach that place where they are ready to dump the dummy.
Step 4 : Leave the house without a dummy or pacifier
We may panic at the thought of leaving the house without the dummy, but don’t! It won’t be that bad. Take little steps at a time. Don’t go for the whole day at the first go, start small but aim big!
Go for a little trip to the playground, go for a walk, feed the ducks, go swimming, or go anywhere that you can amuse your child and show them that they can have a good time without the dummy. Little by little, you can increase the time. Observe your child when you’re out, and see when it is that they will start to notice and start asking for the dummy. This will help you avoid the tantrums and the strained looks from other people.
Anyway, don’t mind what other people think! Your main priority should always be your child’s well being. Not some strangers disapproving look.
Restrict dummy use to key times during the day, for example bedtime, or whenever they’re unwell. Gift them fun activities and stickers as a reward!
Whenever you’re in a public place, show them how other ‘big’ kids are not using their dummy, and praise them well. That will make them feel that they’re more grown up.
The goal here is to get the child to not use the dummy for long periods of time. Which will lead you to reach that FINAL GOAL: to ditch the dummy forever!
Step 5: FOREVER without the dummy!
Okay, so you’ve reached that time where you’ve done all the above.
Your child has gradually decreased the amount of dummy time, Your child is also aware that they are soon have to give up the dummy, and you are confident that you can replace the comfort that the dummy gives whenever your child is in distressed.
Yes? Perfect, that means that you are ready!
The final step would be to give them the grand gesture. In which the child can see that the dummy is gone forever from their life and never to return.
My first daughter loves fairies. So one night the fairy comes and took her dummy for a little baby fairy. An acquaintance of mine tied the dummy to a helium balloon and flew it up to the clouds. A close friend of mine gave the the dummy to the trash man and let the child threw it to the back of the trash / bin lorry.
The important thing is to let your child know that the dummy is gone forever and never to return.
ONE FINAL THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT ONCE YOU’VE MADE THE FINAL GRAND GESTURE, THE DUMMY CAN NEVER RETURN!
BE STRONG, BE PATIENT AND NEVER EVER GIVE IN.
YOUR CHILD CAN GROW UP AND BE INDEPENDENT WITHOUT THE DUMMY.