A dummy is like a security blanket to your baby or toddler - babies have a natural sucking reflex which is why breastfeeding, bottles and dummies are of great comfort to them. So removing baby's dummy requires a considered approach. Is your baby's dummy mostly a sleep aid? Is it there for times of distress or is it constantly in use? If you understand why and when your baby needs this comfort, you'll have a much better success rate when it comes time to remove it.
There is no right or wrong age to wean your baby off the dummy, but there is such thing as good timing.
There's the easiest time - which is between between 4-6 months of age, before they have much of a memory and haven't yet developed any psychological attachment.
There's the socially accepted norm of around 2 years of age before they start to develop issues with their speech and their teeth. Encourage your child to always take their dummy out of they are beginning to talk, and that they speak instead of point, so that the dummy does not inhibit their speech development.
There's the natural approach - without forcing the issue, your child simply relinquishes their dummy when they are ready.
And there's an age where it becomes necessity - this could be between 3 and 4 when your child is beginning to go to pre-school, prep or equivalent; when it is affecting their speech; when sucking on a dummy can cause incorrect positioning of their teeth; and when your child has frequent ear infections.
At any of these stages, it's important that you don't try to ditch the dummy when your child is going through particularly stressful changes, such as moving house, starting school or daycare, going through a change in their sleep patterns or feeling unwell.
Cold Turkey This may sound cruel, but depending on how strong-willed your child is, going cold turkey may be the fastest approach to stop baby from using a dummy. Some children will simply accept when you tell them that the dummy fairy has taken your dummy away. Depending on their age and how much they understand, your child may even be happy to know that Santa or perhaps the dummy fairy has given your dummy to a child less fortunate that didn't have one.
You could also 'lose' their dummy, removing the temptation to given in during a meltdown. Together, you'll work out a different coping mechanism that does not rely on their dummy. You may be in for a few long nights when you go cold turkey, but just 1 to 3 nights without it may be all they need to know that they are safe without it and their world has not collapsed.
The gradual approach This is a more gentle approach to weaning your baby off the dummy and there are a number of different methods you can try.
- Replace the dummy with another 'security blanket' such as a teddy or soft toy that they will give up naturally once it holds less meaning to them.
- Restrict use of their dummy during the day time. If a dummy is a sleep aid for your baby, you should be introducing additional sleep cues such as a swaddle if they are under 6 months, dark lighting, white noise, and a consistent bed time routine.
- Gently remove the dummy right before they fall asleep. If your baby continues to fuss or wakes up crying through the night and cannot go back to sleep, repeat the process. Be prepared for some long nights ahead whilst you gently repeat the process of removing their dummy right before they drift off, and eventually they will fall back to sleep without their dummy if they wake during the night.
Better Health Victoria have some further tips and resources on weaning your baby off their dummy. What are your tips for stopping your baby using their dummy? What age were they and what worked for you? Share in the comments below.