“Giving up dummy” – many parents’ fears
If your child has been using a dummy (comforter), sooner or later this will need to stop.
This is sometimes a bit of a challenge but true behavioural nightmares and tantrums are very rare.
Below you’ll find some ideas that might help as you approach this milestone, though let’s deal with some myths first.
The dummy and myths
There are lots of ideas about the dummy that seem to have little foundation in either science or large-scale experience. Many of these can be safely ignored and they include:
- all children use a dummy. No, they do not. In many cultures, an upset baby may be put to the mother’s breast to comfort them and it’s very hard to distinguish that from feeding. This though often stops at a very young age. In western cultures, some babies spontaneously reject a dummy and never use one. If your child doesn’t want one, there is no need to try and force one onto them;
- your child must be weaned off their dummy as early as possible. There is no competition at stake here. Children can come off their dummy at any age and many quite randomly stop using one once they’re ready and without parental intervention;
- a dummy is bad for the teeth. There is no evidence for this in younger children. However, it is the case that there is some evidence that dummy use in older children (say after 4 years) can cause irregular growth in teeth. Ideally, children should be off their dummy by that age;
- ongoing dummy use leads to “apron-strings” overly-dependent children. Once again, there is no evidence at all to support this ancient belief.
“Giving up dummy” – the how
Taking a deep breath is often the first trepidatious start for parents when removing a dummy but there are some very easy things you can do to help reduce or eliminate tantrums:
- start reducing, slowly at first then building up, the number of hours the dummy is available to your child during the day. Once they get used to lengthy periods without it during daytime, they might just forget it at night too;
- encourage your child to put the dummy away themselves, during those reducing daylight hours. That way they’ll see it as being under their control rather than some form of punishment;
- be fairly flexible at the outset rather than acting as a sentinel. If they take their dummy back at times during the ‘no-use’ periods, discuss it with them but don’t forbid it – at least in the early days;
- explain why you’re encouraging them to reduce and give up. Make it positive and praiseworthy for “growing up”. Don’t pressurise them and above all, never ridicule them for still using their dummy;
- as they make progress, you might suggest setting a target for when they will stop using it altogether and indicate a reward or other treat for doing so. Make this symbolic and celebrate it but after this has been achieved, you must suggest the dummy is now gone. A really good idea we heard was to suggest to your child that they put their dummy in a tree for the fairies to take away and use.
Challenges in “giving up dummy”
Significant troubles here are very rare.
Some children might experience a few restless nights however, these will usually soon pass. You might also see some irritability at times.
Much more rarely, a very few children have severe difficulties in terms of distress, when they try to give up their dummies. If that’s the case, a quick discussion with your doctor or paediatrician might help.