We have just finished weaning my youngest, J, off his dummy (pacifier to our friends in North America). It wasn’t easy, but it was the right time for us.
Both my kids used dummies and we had a lot of scaremongering and doom and gloom from well-meaning family and friends – both of the ‘you’ll never get them off it’ variety and of the ‘why are you taking it away now, it’s cruel’ variety.
Neither of these concerns really turned out to be an issue though, so I thought I’d do a quick article on weaning a baby off a pacifier or dummy, for any other parents who are dreading the process!
When to get rid of the dummy
There’s no right time to wean your child off their dummy. The NHS guidance is to remove the dummy when your baby is between 9-12 months old, but many people choose to use a dummy for longer than this.
The main concerns with dummies are that they may interfere with speech development, cause dental problems (such as effecting teeth placement) and increase the risk of stomach, mouth and ear infections. Most institutions therefore advise ‘avoiding prolonged use’, but the exact definition of what that means is difficult to pin down.
Evidence of harm with dummies is difficult to interpret, as often it relies on parents’ self-reporting on their child’s use and often looks at babies and toddlers who use them very frequently, rather than more intermittent use, so of course conclusions are more likely to show harm. The evidence-based parenting blog has tried to give a reasonable summary of what little evidence is available.
Basically, the truth is that no-one is entirely sure what is ‘OK’ dummy use and what is ‘harmful’ dummy use. So use your common sense – try to limit dummy use to when your child is going to sleep or distressed and use it for as little time as you think you need to.
Don’t choose a time to lose the dummy if your child is already going through a big adjustment – a new house, new sibling, starting nursery, etc. They will need their comfort so wait until things have stabilised!
We chose to take the dummy off both of our children just before their first birthdays, mainly because we hoped that they would forget about it quicker than when they were older!
Prepare your child
Depending on how often your little one uses a dummy, you may want to do a bit of ‘prep’ work so that it doesn’t come as a complete shock to her.
Start reducing use to just sleep times and avoid it during the day if you can, or stop using a dummy for daytime naps and just stick to night-time. We did both of these for a couple of weeks before the big dummy removal.
Some people also choose to start removing the dummy just before your baby falls asleep – letting them suck until they’re nearly out and then taking it away.
We never did this as I really like it when my kids sleep and I wasn’t risking waking them up!
If your child is too young to understand a discussion about giving up the dummy, then it’s best to just go for it.
My husband and I chose a weekend when neither of us was working, so we were both around for night-time support. If you’re a single parent then I’d seriously consider getting a friend or relative to stay for the weekend – there’s nothing like a crying child to push you to the limit.
We binned all the dummies we had so there was no going back and we did our usual bedtime routine, except that we didn’t give the dummy after milk and instead just moved straight to stories.
My eldest, L, cried for ten minutes or so and then just fell asleep and was fine all night! My youngest, J, objected a bit more strongly! He cried and struggled for over an hour the first night whilst we cuddled and tried to soothe him. We did discover that giving him sips of water from a water bottle helped a bit and we gave him his bunny, which he sucked on a bit, but he was unimpressed.
That first night he woke up several times and cried for probably an hour each time. It was brutal, particularly as he’d been sleeping well before that. He was very clearly looking for his dummy – he kept looking at and trying to get to the bedside table where we’d always kept a spare.
The second night, J cried for ten minutes when he first went to bed and then he just accepted it. He went back to sleeping through the night as normal!
I like to think that when they’re young, babies forget quite quickly about dummies so the transition is a bit quicker.
Although I do have to admit that J’s dummies had been going missing for a month or so before we weaned him and we later realised he’d been hiding them as after weaning there were a few occasions when he suddenly appeared with a dummy in his mouth! I was both horrified and impressed by his ingenuity!
If your child is old enough to understand and communicate with you, then you may want to take a different approach to getting rid of dummies.
My mum weaned my brothers off dummies when they were about two (apparently I wasn’t cooperative enough to take a dummy in the first place). They were fascinated by the bin lorry and used to watch when it came around the street each week.
She told them that as they were grown up now they had to give their dummies to the bin lorry, which would take them away. They gathered up all the dummies and when they saw the bin lorry drive up, the three of them went outside and handed all the dummies to the men working on it. They all stood and waved as it drove off and my brothers never asked for a dummy again.
Other parents use the ‘we’re going to give the dummies to other children’ line. One mum I know even made a ‘time to give the dummy away’ book, with photos and a story about her child that ended with the child putting all her dummies in the bin as she was now a big girl and didn’t need them anymore. Apparently it worked like a charm and they read the book together for several weeks!
You know your child best, so choose a method that will mean more to them. Be consistent though, once you decide to get rid of the dummies then don’t go back or you’ll confuse your child.
It’s never as bad as you think it will be
My husband and I were really anxious about getting rid of dummies with both L and J, but with both of them it was a lot easier than we’d expected.
When the time is right for you and your child, then make the decision and just go for it! You may have some rough nights, but it will pass.
I hope that you’ve found these suggestions for weaning baby off a pacifier or dummy helpful. If you have any questions or concerns then leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
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