Ditch the Dummy
Most experts warn that a baby should be weaned off a dummy by the age of 12 months and certainly once they have teeth, as a dummy can hinder the growth and development of healthy teeth. When children use a dummy for longer it can cause overbite or crossbite, where the top and bottom sets of teeth don’t meet properly. Dummy's can also impact on children's speech and language and so can hinder their development, including their frustration levels and behaviours as they start to struggle communicating their wishes.
As a school, with a nursery, we often find children transitioning into school still using a dummy in both Nursery and Reception. Staff in school will support parents and children to transition from dummy use to other items of comfort that will support their emotional need for comfort but that doesn't impact on the speech, teeth development and behaviour.
In school we have a 'Dummy Fairy' approach. If a child brings they un-needed dummies to school our headteacher, Miss Cowan, will swap them for lots of praise and a present from the Dummy Fairy. Miss Cowan then passes the dummies on to the dummy fairy who recycles the dummies for new babies.
Tips for parents who want their child to ditching the dummy:
1. Take it away early! I can hear you crying into your coffee now, but honestly – you’ll thank me for it later. The earlier the better, there’s a very important reason to take it away early too.
Sucking a dummy constantly can have a big effect on speech and teeth. Having said that, not all dummy-sucking is equally damaging.
It’s really about the intensity of the sucking and the tongue’s thrust that deforms teeth. Little ones who rest their dummy passively in their mouth, more as a comforter rather than sucking it, are less likely to have dental problems than children who suck aggressively.
With this in mind, when your child talks to you – make sure they take their dummy out. Try and get your little one into this routine from a young age by letting them know you won’t listen unless their dummy is out. You don’t have to be cross – just say ‘I can’t hear your words with your thumb there, can you say it again without your thumb?’ It’s even better if like I did with my daughter, from a young age, you keep dummies for bed/naptimes only.
2. Go cold turkey
Unlike the thumb – you can take the problem away, ie get rid of all the dummies in the house, sometimes this works much easier than parents think it will. They you just need the will power to stick with it. You may have a few rough days, but it will be worth it. It often helps to include the child in this, collecting them up and get rid of them can have quite an impact on the growing child.
4. Give it away
If your child is old enough to understand the concept of fairies, get super imaginative! Make up a fun story about giving it away to the dummy fairy or even Santa if it’s that time of year! With this method – you are giving your little one power to make their own decision. If they do give it away – reward with lot’s of praise. You could even trade something for the dummy! Santa or the fairies could leave payment in the form of a much wanted toy or treat.
5. Take it away gradually
A slow, gentle process is much nicer than ‘cold turkey’ but it can take quite some time to ditch the dummy. As mentioned before – by restricting the dummy to nap/bedtimes from a young age – it’ll be easier to say goodbye to it when the time comes. If however, your little one has it ALL the time now. Start restricting it. Tell them they can still have their dummy but only at bedtime.
9. Dummy Books!
From toilet training to tantrums – books give an insight into issues that little ones find hard to grasp. These books are ideal for talking about giving up their comforter and will help your little one to understand why it’s time to say goodbye to the dummy.
10. Just wait
If your little one only has their dummy at bedtime – I’d not worry too much. Unless the dummy is having a huge impact on speech and teeth, your little one will likely give up their dummy in their own time.
Try swapping the dummy for a different comforter, either their Better Bear or a different type transitional objects like a comforter. Your child may still need some emotional support that they get from the dummy, this will need to be focused elsewhere.
By Reception the dummy should already be banished to the bed, so the earlier you start the better. If you need any help at all please see Miss Cooper and the Nursery Staff as they will be only too eager to help.
Whatever dummy ditching method you use, try and make it as less stressful as possible for all of you. If your little one is terribly upset – try something else. There’s really no need for tears at bedtime.