You swear you're not going to resort to using a dummy... then the crying starts. Before you know it, your baby and his treasured little dummy are inseparable. Well, every parent deserves a little peace, right?
But once your little one is hooked, depriving them of their favourite comforter is easier said than done. And nobody wants to see their child start school with a dummy in their mouth.
Here are some simple suggestions to make the transition to being dummy-free as smooth and pain-free as possible.
1. Understand the dummy's role
When planning your dummy removal strategy, it's important to understand why this treasured possession is so important to your baby. Is it simply a cue to help them fall asleep, a comfort in times of distress or an oral security blanket they can't function without? Understanding this attachment will help you to find a suitable replacement to fill the void. A new cuddly toy, for instance, could be introduced as an alternative comforter in times of stress while a renewed focus on your baby's bedtime routine could help to reduce the need for a sleep aid.
2. Timing it right
The earlier you decide to remove the dummy, the easier it will be. From 12 months onwards your baby will become increasingly strong-willed and averse to change so you will need to change your tack accordingly. Going 'cold turkey' might work with a younger baby while reasoning or rewards (read: bribery) could be a more sensible plan for a headstrong toddler.
TIP: When NOT to do a dummy detox: When your child is not feeling well, going through any sort of change (moving house, starting nursery), in the middle of a bad-sleep phase or feeling particularly vulnerable or upset.
3. Out of sight, out of mind
Preparation is key. You wouldn't leave bars of chocolate lying around the house if you were on a diet, so keep temptation well hidden. If binning your emergency dummy stockpile seems a little drastic, at least gather them together and keep them in a safe place – out of sight and preferably somewhere difficult for you to reach, too (a baby's cry can be very persuasive).
Anything to take your baby's mind off sucking their dummy will help. Whenever you sense a 'dummy moment' coming on, introduce a new toy, go for a walk, have a sing-song, watch nursery rhyme videos on YouTube. But beware of using snacks as a dummy substitute – a comfort eating habit is more detrimental than a dummy.
5. The gentle approach
If going cold turkey seems a little harsh, try gradually reducing the amount of time your baby has the dummy each day. Alternatively, keep the dummy hidden in your pocket and increase the amount of time you wait before handing it over (no matter how intense the pestering gets). In theory, they will eventually learn to realise they can cope without it and stop asking altogether.
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6. Going cold turkey
This method is not for the faint-hearted but it is probably the fastest way to get results. You will need plenty of distractions, plus bags of patience and determination. The idea is that no matter how much your baby cries, screams and pleads, you stand your ground and withhold the dummy until they learn to live without it. Give in halfway through and you'll be back to square one. Make sure the time is right (see above) and stand your ground. Within a week or two you should be rewarded with a dummy-free child.
7. The dummy fairy
Imaginary characters can be incredibly useful when it comes to bargaining with a feisty toddler (as anyone who has told their little darling that Santa only visits tidy bedrooms will know). This is where the dummy fairy comes in. Like the tooth fairy, but more interested in dodies than dental donations, the dummy fairy turns up while your little one sleeps and takes away their dummy (which has been carefully packaged, addressed accordingly and left outside their bedroom door) and replaces it with an exciting gift.
8. Ditching the dummy at bedtime
Children's sleep expert, Andrea Grace, suggests teaching your child to sleep without the dummy by tightening up their bedroom routine - including a familiar bedtime story - so that it becomes a "clear system of little sleep triggers". These triggers will soon perform the same soothing function as the dummy, she says. Grace suggests introducing this method at the beginning of the night, staying by their bedside for reassurance until they fall asleep and gradually withdrawing your presence until it is no longer required. The method should also be reinforced whenever they wake throughout the night.
9. Don't stress
If your attempt at ditching the dummy is initially unsuccessful, don't panic. And don't put yourself – or your baby – under unnecessary pressure. Remember your baby isn't 'naughty' for wanting a dummy and neither is it a reflection of your parenting skills. Millions of dummies are sold every year for good reason. And when was the last time you saw a child going to school with a dummy in? When the time is right, they will eventually give up. In the meantime, try to chill out. There are worse vices.