Giving up the dummy can be a hot topic of conversation and there are lots of opinions as to whether to use a dummy or not. Here are some general points on dummy use in order for you as a parent to make your own decision.
Should I give up the dummy?
- Many parents choose to use a dummy to help soothe their child to act as a comforter. Try to choose one that is appropriate in size to your child’s age.
- When a baby is first born, their sucking reflex is very strong and they need to suck a lot. If your baby needs to suck in order to make more milk and you give a dummy instead, you could reduce the amount of milk you are making. Your baby may then get hungry, cries, is given a dummy and the whole process is repeated! You can find out more information on breastfeeding and dummy use from La Leche League (opens in new tab).
- Don’t get into a habit of using a dummy regularly. Fall back on it if all else fails but don’t start each day by popping the dummy into your baby’s mouth.
- Don’t use a dummy as a ‘plug’. Try to find out what the problem is before using the dummy as babies cry when they need something from you. This ‘short term’ solution may have long term consequences e.g. when trying to give the dummy up.
- Never dip the dummy into anything sweet, like honey or fizzy drinks as this can lead to tooth decay. Also, never put it in your mouth first as this could cause infection by passing harmful bacteria from your mouth to your child’s leading to your child possibly getting ill. They should be sterilised in the same way as a bottle is and regularly checked for holes or decay.
- Wait until your child asks for the dummy rather than automatically giving it to them.
- Discourage your child from speaking when the dummy is in their mouth.
- When using a dummy, babies are less able to learn to use their mouths in different ways. For example to smile, to blow bubbles, to make sounds, to chew food and eventually to talk. They may be prevented from moving their mouths and experimenting with babbling sounds that they should be learning to make the quick mouth movements for speech. The more practice they get, the better the awareness of their mouths and the better their speech will be. A dummy may inhibit this process.
- Prolonged dummy use can result in a ‘gap’ between upper and lower teeth and / or incorrect positioning of teeth.
- If your child does use a dummy, encourage them to give it up as soon as possible. Between 6 months and 1 year is best.
Let’s now explore some of the ways you can support your little one to give up the dummy.
Tips for giving up the dummy
If your child is over 12 months and is still using the dummy, here are some of the things you may like to try:
- Make a clean break – most babies and toddlers will fret for only 2 or 3 days and nights, which, if you’re prepared for it, isn’t too bad.
- Find a time when you have some support to ‘dump the dummy’, for example, at the weekend.
- You can also gradually reduce the dummy use. For example, start limiting the dummy to use in the house and then only at bedtime.
- You could also prepare your child to give up the dummy on a specific date and swap it for a new toy or an alternative reward e.g. a trip to the park or going swimming.
- Have a ‘dump the dummy’ ceremony e.g. bake a cake, throw the dummy in the bin then open a present.
- Get an older sibling or friend to agree that giving up the dummy is really grown up.
- Give all your dummies to a family member or a childminder or a nursery teacher.
- Use a behaviour chart and lots of praise to motivate them.
- Read books to your child to help them adjust to the idea dummy use will come to an end. We recommend – ‘I want my dummy’ by Tony Ross and ‘The last noo-noo’ by Jill Murphy.
Let us know which of these top tips you found most useful and what successes you’ve had in the comments below.