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To ditch or not to ditch the dummy?

So, the dummy, the pacifier, what name does “it” have in your home?

Many babies have a dummy and many have had it from a very young age. Having lived and nannied abroad in different countries over a number of years I have seen some countries use it more than others, Spain for example it seems every child on every corner has one, and it’s just part of them until they are 2 or 3 years old. When my son started nursery a few years back now they asked if he had one and I said no, they looked shocked and a little bit confused, but truth be told it was not for want of trying, he just did not want it.

So does it really matter if your child has a dummy? Well, let’s explore its uses and then you can decide, it’s a family personal choice I feel but i sleep is being effected negatively it could be time to ditch...

First of all, the benefits of a dummy, what are they? Well, some research tells us that using a dummy when you pop your baby down to sleep reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) however it is advised to introduce it once breastfeeding has been established. No one has been really able to tell us exactly what it is about a dummy that may help reduce the risk we can only speculate and ask the researchers their thoughts.

Now it’s recommended to introduce the dummy once breastfeeding has been established as I mentioned and this is due to nipple confusion, although I have yet to meet a mum that has had a problem with this. And which one to use?

Again the shelf is flooded with different brands all trying to use cunning words and pictures for us to part with our cash but recommendations say go with an orthopedic approved brand such as NUK or Tommee Tippee. Why? Well orthodontic dummies are designed to prevent tooth misalignment and possible orthodontic issues later in life, as baby teeth come in and eventually give way to adult teeth. And what is different about them to a “normal” dummy, well orthodontic dummies feature a nipple that is flattened on the bottom and rounded at the top.

Some are glow in the dark. My sons was and I remember in the night on the odd occasion I tried to introduce it looking for it was super easy. It shone and I could just grab, plug, go..! But it does not always happen like this, sometimes parents find themselves on the dummy run countless times throughout the night. This is when baby wakes and can’t self settle themselves back to sleep unless they have their dummy in their mouth. Some babies go to sleep with a whole bunch of them, one in two out, four at the bottom of the bed, just in case they need an extra one in the night!

And then it happens, parents become more attached to the dummy than the child and are too nervous to remove it for fear of upsetting their child and the unknown sleepless nights that may lie ahead. In all honesty with the many clients I have worked with who have decided to “ditch the dummy” it really has not been as bad as they had feared. It was easy, quick and painless. Of course it does come down to a few things such as how attached they are to it, temperament of the child and age. Smaller babies in my experience have found it easy to ditch their dummy than the older toddlers.

Do you need to use it or indeed offer it at all nap and sleep times? Do you need to use it when they are not going for a sleep? Well you may find your child is very attached to it and they ask for it or when they are just having a little grumble it’s the first thing we reach for, plug in and BOOM.. baby is calmer. Of course it may help with establishing a good sleep routine, so I guess it is the child’s cues we go with here if they indeed need it at nap and sleep times. Most babies do. Of course do not force them to use it, if it falls out or they spit it out leave it, there is no point forcing a “crutch” on to them if they choose they do not want it.

The negatives of a dummy...

Well it’s a sleep crutch, a sleep association that needs you the parent to give it to the child. And it becomes part of the child, as I mention above many children get very attached to their dummy and take it EVERYWHERE they go! And of course it can disrupt sleep, and that is when you find yourself on the “dummy run”!

There are a few dummy “keepers” as I like to call them out there, one of which is the jelly cat. It has a little clip on it that actually holds onto the dummy so in the night if your child has lost the dummy you can teach them to “seek and find” their jelly cat and in turn the dummy will be there. It’s a bigger item to find in the dark cot therefore easier than feeling about for a little dummy that may have fallen down between the cot bars.

So, how do we cease using a dummy?

There are a few ways of course as with anything. Some parents like to slowly cut the end of gradually over the course of a few days, this will stop your child being able to suck it so easily and not be so much “fun” for them. Sometimes you can cut the usage down but this can be confusing for some children and really depends on the age and understanding. For toddlers and older children the dummy fairy may come one day and leave a little star dust and gift in place of the dummy which is super exciting and some parents like to just go cold turkey. Cold turkey is good for young small babies and really is not as bad as you may fear…

So....Is now the time to “ditch the dummy”…? You need to decide and work out why you want to ditch it and your end goal. Go for it…. You may be pleasantly surprised…and better slept for it….!

If you would like some help and support to work through this transition as I have done with many parents before please read out to me HERE and we can have a chat how best I can support you through the transition.

Peaceful nights to you all...


Your paediatric Sleep Consultant



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