- Dummies are easy to replace if they get lost or damaged. It’s also important to replace them regularly as they wear out quickly.
- Dummies can help teach your child to self-settle.
- Sucking on a dummy doesn’t usually affect permanent tooth position if it’s given up by the time permanent teeth erupt.
- Dummies reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Dummies may disrupt your child’s sleep patterns. She may wake through the night looking for her dropped dummy which she’ll need to settle herself back to sleep.
- Dummies can cause tooth problems if they are not given up before the permanent teeth erupt (by about 5 or 6 years of age).
- Some children develop a speech problem, such as a lisp, if she always has a dummy in her mouth while she’s talking.
- Dummies can have a negative effect on breastfeeding due to nipple confusion
- Dummies shouldn’t be used as a substitute to feeding.
How can I get rid of the dummy?
Very occasionally, a child will spontaneously give up sucking a dummy (lucky you!), but for most hard-core dummy suckers, it will be you who decides that it’s got to go. Often it’s the sight of your large pre-schooler happily rumbling with her friends with a big chunk of plastic firmly stuck in her mouth that gets the ball rolling.
Here are our tips:
- Pick your time wisely – don’t try to change the habit of a lifetime when your child is unwell, starting a new pre-school, welcoming a new sibling into the family, or experiencing any disruption to her routine.
- Start to withdraw the dummy by only allowing it at sleep time.
- Discourage your child from taking it from the house.
- Don’t let her talk to you with her dummy in her mouth – tell her that you can’t understand her.
- Stop buying new dummies to replace the old.
- If she is old enough to understand, talk to her about giving up her dummy and perhaps try setting a giving-up date together – a birthday is often a good choice, or you may choose to leave her dummy out for the tooth fairy/Easter bunny/ Santa Claus.
- Offer her a substitute comfort object – a teddy bear or an old baby blanket – to help her through the transition. While she’ll get comfort from these objects, it’s unlikely that she’ll become as dependent on them as she was on the dummy.
- Celebrate being dummy-free with a special outing or her favourite dinner.
No matter how tempting it may seem, never, ever undo all your hard work and give her a dummy once she’s given them up. Not only will your child learn that with a little whinging, she’ll get what she wants, but your job will be just that bit harder next time around.
Other types of comforters
Thumbs and fingers
- Your child’s thumb or finger can never be lost and is always available.
- A thumb-sucker is usually great at self-settling.
- At a certain age, your child will become motivated to stop sucking her thumb because she’ll find it an embarrassing habit.
- Giving up thumb-sucking can be really difficult, even if your child is onside, because you’ll find that sometimes her thumb will make its way into her mouth when she’s asleep, even after she’s given up the habit.
- Thumb-sucking can cause extensive dental problems once she starts to lose her baby teeth.
- Thumb-suckers can have trouble communicating – with a thumb always in her mouth, she can be hard to understand.
- A bottle as a comforter is not a great idea, because unless she’s happy to suck on air (which may give her a terrible stomach ache), your child will be continually receiving fluids as comfort.
- A bottle for comfort should only contain water.
- Continually sucking on milk or juice will damage her teeth.
- By receiving fluids as comfort, your child will learn to associate the feeling of fullness with comfort, leading to possible weight concerns later in life.
Soft toys and blankets
- A soft toy or blanket, while still a comforter, is not usually kept in your child’s mouth so won’t pose as greater risk to the development of your child’s teeth as other types of comforters.
- A soft toy or blanket is more likely to be put down during play, so while your child may derive great comfort from having it near, she’s won’t be as physically dependent on it.
- Losing a soft toy comforter is a disaster – and is easy to do!
- Even stocking up on replacement comforters doesn’t usually work because your child’s comforter will have a special smell or soft edge that is different in the replacement article.
- Your child will probably resist regular washing of her comfort object but it needs to be done for hygiene reasons.
- Babies shouldn’t have soft toys or a loose blanket in her bed while she’s sleeping as they may smother her.
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