When & How To Wean Your Baby Off A Dummy
Sucking is one of the most soothing activities for babies. It's often one of the first things that babies do to bond with mum after coming out of the womb. Naturally, whether they're sucking on mum's boob, a bottle or a dummy, sucking gives babies an enormous sense of comfort and helps them to relax.
The power of sucking is why nearly two thirds of parents introduce dummies to their babies by 3 months. For many, they become an essential part of their parenting toolkit.
But while dummies can be calming for babies, there may come a time when parents feel pressure to try to break the habit and to wean their baby off their dummy. Find out when and how to wean your baby off dummies!
Are dummies bad?
The short answer is no, they're not bad, and for some families dummies are very helpful. For example, babies who suffer from colic may find that dummies offer pain relief (and some respite for parents, too!).
Like most things in parenting, there are both advantages and disadvantages of using dummies. However, most of the disadvantages are only associated with extended, very frequent dummy use. These include orthodontic issues later on, and delayed speech development.
There’s also some evidence that weaning your little one off their dummy before 12 months helps to avoid ear infections caused by a build-up of bacteria in the mouth and ear area.
When’s the best time to wean your baby off a dummy?
It's usually a good idea wean your baby off their dummy away before they're 12 months old - this is because the younger they are, the easier it usually is.
Try to do it before they start saying "no!". Babies aged 12 months and over are usually very emotionally attached to their dummies, and it can be hard for parents to take the dummy away without feeling tremendous guilt. The younger your baby is, the less likely they are to protest about the change.
Help! My toddler is still using a dummy - is it too late to wean?
Don't worry - it's not too late!
There's no strict rule or official guidance on weaning your child off a dummy - it's up to parents to decide what's best for their child.
Bear in mind after 12 months, your child has probably developed a strong emotional attachment to their dummy, so it's likely to be harder for them to give it up and so it's best not to rush them with this.
Most children will be emotionally ready to wean off their dummy between 2 and 4 years old.
How to start weaning your baby off a dummy
If you think the time has come to ditch the dummy, here are our top tips on how to do it! You'll know your child best and some techniques will work better for some kids than others, so we recommend considering the age of your child and how reliant they are on their dummy first.
Also, don't worry if you try one method and it doesn't work straight away. Instead of being hard on yourself, accept the situation and try again in a week, or a month's time, and consider trying a different method instead.
Slowly does it
If your child is very emotionally attached to their dummy and you feel mean about going cold turkey, then gradually reducing the amount of time they have using their dummy each day is a great technique to try. With this method, you can probably ditch the dummy completely within a week, but for some families it can take longer.
Replace the dummy
Try replacing the dummy with a different kind of comforter such as a blanket or a teddy. If it's comfort they're after with the dummy, they can try and still get this feeling but from something else instead. This can be a helpful technique for older babies.
Teach your child mindfulness techniques
If your toddler uses a dummy to help calm themselves in stressful situations, then teaching them calming, controlled breathing exercises to help self-soothe is a great idea. This can be helpful for all children (and adults!) - even those who are already past the dummy stage!
Limit dummy use to certain situations
Hide the dummy away during the day, but allow it only at certain times when your child needs calming down. For example, allow the dummy to be used at bedtime or during stressful situations, such as starting nursery. This is a useful technique for toddlers and older babies.
The dummy fairy
A classic technique - start planting seeds that the 'dummy fairy' is going to come and take the dummies away on a certain date. Once this date arrives, you can turn this into an activity for your child and get the involved. You can have them help you collect the dummies from around the house into a box or basket for the 'dummy fairy' to come and take away. They can even write a letter to the dummy fairy, like a letter to santa, to offer a sense of closure.
Go cold turkey
This option is for hardcore parents with a thicker skin, but going cold turkey with dummies can be a good idea if your baby is still very young. It's a good idea to combine this technique with replacing the dummy with another comforting tool, such as a blanket.
Your child will probably have an easier time letting go of their dummy if there's something in it for him or her. Suggest going shopping for a brand new toy that they can pick after they've given up their dummy. This will help to make it a positive experience for them.
It's important to be positive and encouraging when trying to wean your child off a dummy, but try not to bad too over excited - this may have the opposite effect of putting your child off giving up their dummy.
Your child isn't ready to give up the dummy yet? Don't stress!
Remember that in traditional cultures, babies were often breastfed until they were 4 years old - sucking is a form of comfort that's been known for thousands of years, and there's nothing wrong with your child!
And bear in mind nobody still sucks on a dummy by the time they're a teenager - at some point, they will naturally decide give up the dummy themselves anyway.
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