Should I Give My Child A Dummy?
The advice I am about to give you is from my own experience. Please feel free to use my pearls of wisdom as you see fit.
If being pregnant wasn’t enough of a life adjustment, we then have to contend with all of the other questions that we, as new mothers have to answer.
One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves is, should I give my child a dummy?
When my little boy finally made an appearance, I decided to use a dummy. I was aware of the interest and debate as to whether children need dummies. Having worked in the early years’ sector for so many years, I contemplated whether or not I was making the right decision.
Why did I decide to introduce a dummy?
Before my son was born, I felt determined that I would not use a dummy. Looking back, I don’t know why I was against them. What I do know, however, is that my feelings changed moments after he came into the world.
Having struggled to breastfeed my boy due to a traumatic birth, I was searching for ways to settle him. During my stay in the hospital, I noticed that other mums were using dummies to calm their babies. I took the plunge, popped a pacifier in his mouth, and I was amazed at the difference it made.
My little boy went from screaming to silent within moments.
His dummy was so useful that I continued giving it to him after we came home, and it was used well into the first couple of months.
So, what happened next?
Despite my newfound respect for dummies, I knew I did not want my son to use one in the long term. The longer I allowed him to have it, the harder it would be to take it away.
From my experience working in the early years’ sector, I have seen first hand the difficulties older children have with speech and dental problems due to the prolonged use of a dummy. In those early days, however, this was the least of my worries.
When my son turned four months old, I decided that with my return to work looming close, I needed to embed a routine that worked for both of us.
So it began.
Even at four months old, I could see that he was becoming dependent on his dummy. At first, it would settle him. But it was becoming an essential tool that enabled him to fall asleep.
For many nights, at every hour, he woke me so that I would pop his dummy into his mouth. After one particularly long night, I decided enough was enough.
Weaning off the dummy
After the long night (that’s what I call it), I decided the very next morning that I would remove his dummy from nap times. I replaced it with a teddy bear as a way of teaching him a new association with sleep time.
Unsurprisingly, he had other ideas. He became distraught when he realised he was not going to be getting his dummy.
It took two days for him to fall asleep without a dummy. I nearly caved in a few times, but looking back I’m so glad I didn’t. It was so difficult to wean him off his dummy at four months old that I cannot imagine what it must be like for parents removing it from older babies.
My three weaning tips for babies under eighteen months old
If you are thinking about removing your baby’s dummy, and they are under eighteen months old, I have three points you might want to bear in mind.
- Be consistent
- Introduce a comforter
- Be present
If you decide to remove the dummy, you must follow through. Even for young babies, it can be confusing for them if you take it away for a while and then re-introduce it later. Once it’s gone, it needs to stay gone.
Introduce a comforter
There are a few things you could use as a comforter. It could be a teddy, a snuggly, or a blanket.
Initially, your baby might not find this new item comforting. But stick with it. When you put your baby down to sleep, ensure their new comforter accompanies them.
I want to make it clear that I never left my child to cry it out. I made sure I was always there. My four-month-old was far too young to understand what was happening. I remained there to settle and comfort him through this change.
Over eighteen months
If your baby is older than eighteen months old, it becomes even more difficult to remove their dummy. At this age, they will be very much attached to it.
Going cold turkey is probably not the best way to tackle this. Some ideas that you can try for older babies could include:
- Short bursts
- Be creative
Removing the dummy for short periods could be an excellent way to start the weaning process. You might try by initially removing the dummy at times when they aren’t asleep.
Your baby needs to receive a consistent message. If you are weaning your baby off their dummy, you should tell your partner, your family, nursery or any other caregivers.
Other parents, I’ve spoken to have said that they used stories to help their baby wean off their dummy. The stories they used were about a fairy or another kind of character who came to collect their baby’s dummy.
Tip: At one of our nurseries, we used a dummy tree in the garden where parents and children could leave their dummies for the fairies to collect.
Using a dummy beyond twelve months
Using a dummy beyond twelve months may start to have an impact on your child’s speech development. At this age, children are fluent in babbling and are beginning to say their first words.
Having a dummy in their mouth can prevent children from using speech. I have seen cases where children try to talk around their dummy, which has caused issues with language development and pronunciation.
While you may decide to give your child a dummy beyond twelve months, I would recommend that they only have it for sleep times.
There is evidence to suggest that using a dummy beyond the age of three years can cause problems with your child’s teeth development. Excessive use of dummies at this age can push your child’s upper teeth forward, which then need rectifying as they grow.
There are also hygienic issues with dummies. As children become more mobile, it becomes more challenging to keep dummies clean. Dirty pacifiers can make them more susceptible to illnesses. Some research suggests that sucking a dummy can lead to an increased risk of ear infections, as bacteria on pacifiers can find their way into ear passages.
When you decide to wean your child off their dummy, remember: we have all been there at some stage.
I will never claim that this is an easy hurdle to jump, but it is crucial to keep in mind what you are hoping to achieve by removing the dummy.
Whatever your motivation, I wish you the best of luck!
Written by Danielle Butler, Operations Director at Tommies Childcare and mother to Ronnie