Ditching the dummy (it’s easier than you think!)

Let’s start at the beginning…  WHY do we introduce a dummy to a baby? There really is nothing wrong with your young baby having a dummy. They are excellent settling tools for babies under 4 months. Not only do they provide great comfort to a newborn, they potentially reduce the risk of SIDS and they can be a great way in helping your baby self-soothe without Mum & Dad’s help.

It’s not a problem… until it is.

 The issues arise when your baby becomes dependent on a dummy to transition from awake to asleep. That’s when it turns into an external sleep association. Basically, your baby begins to rely on this to fall asleep. This becomes one of the only ways they know how to fall asleep, so when they come to the light part of their sleep cycle, and they realize that the dummy is no longer in their mouth, they have no choice but to call out for someone to help them get it back in for them.

When we get to this point, we have a few different ways to tackle it –

  1. We make the decision to get rid of the dummy and guide bub into learning to fall asleep without it.
  2. We make the decision to hold off taking it away and wait a few months in the hope that they will be able to pop it back in themselves.
  3. We decide we are happy to continue going in to put the dummy back in ourselves.

Any of these options are perfectly OK. We never ever pressure any of the families we work with to remove the dummy, just to consider it. 

Be sure to keep in mind that if you do decide that you will hold off on taking the dummy away until your baby is old enough to replace it themselves (usually around 9 months), even though they can fix their own sleeping issue, they are still needing to wake up to find the dummy (no many how many you have scattered in their cot!), and if all of them have fallen or been thrown out, then we are back where we started, with bub needing Mum or Dad to replace it for them.  

Getting rid of the dummy is a scary thought, and the thought is ALWAYS scarier than getting rid of it. Babies adjust quickly, and in my experience, it takes 1-3 nights for a baby to adjust to not having their dummy.

I believe that the best way to get rid of the dummy is to just do it. If we take it away cold turkey, there is less confusion, and less temptation to re-introduce it.

Here are a few tips to help with getting rid of it for a baby under 18 Months –

+ Introduce a comforter.  A lightweight, breathable and handkerchief sized comforter is something that we recommend to help ease the transition (if you baby is over 6 months old). We love the Kippins and the Aden and Anais comforters.

+ Assess. If you don’t feel ready but have committed to a sleep plan, then don’t feel the pressure to get rid of it. Use the first night as an ‘assessment’ night. Have in your mind that you will hold off on giving your baby the dummy for a minute or so, and then give it to them and see how they respond. If they take it straight away, then it’s safe to say they are relying on it to fall asleep

+ There is no need to get rid of it for daytime use. If the thought of getting rid of it 100% is too overwhelming, then don’t! Keep it for the car rides, and the shopping trolley if you feel the need to.

+ Know that Night 1 and potentially Night 2 will be rough. Your baby is going through a change, and will most likely resist this change. There really is no ‘normal’ time it takes for a baby to adjust to these changes. We have given them everything they NEED – they are clean, fed and tired. We have taken away what they WANT, but this will soon be replaced by another huge NEED – uninterrupted sleep.

+ Choose a technique that suits you and your family, and start it the night you decide to get rid of the dummy. We have a variety of techniques that we use at The Sleep Dept. Our favorite (and the gentlest) is a ‘Gradual Withdrawal’ from your baby’s room. That way, you are with your baby the whole time they are going through this, and you are able to comfort as much as you feel you need to. If you have a baby who may get a little too over-stimulated having you in the room, then consider a ‘Leave & Check’ technique. This will involve reassuring your baby in timed intervals. Whatever you decide to go with, make the decision and give it a good few days of consistency. We see the biggest changes in the first 3 nights, so if you have given it all you have and after 3 nights are seeing absolutely zero improvements, consider a different technique.

BUT… what if you have a child over 18 months? Well, it’s a whole different story. By this age, your toddler will have well and truly formed an attachment to their dummy, so that means we have to be a little gentler when it comes to taking it away and wean them over time. Take these tips into consideration before you take away their dummy –

  • Prepare your toddler. Babies thrive on predictability and routine. Taking it away from them with no warning might be too much for them. 
  • Make sure everyone involved in your child’s life is on the same page – Parents, Grandparents, anyone who may be looking after your child in this period of time.
  • Toddlers just loooooove storytelling, If your child is old enough to understand,
    offer them a fun way to help them want to give up their dummy. In my local area, we have a dummy tree, some kids decide to give their dummy to the dummy fairy. Be creative and make them want to give it up (as much as they can!). Get them involved as much as possible – a trip to the toy store for them to choose out their new sleeping buddy might also be helpful.
  • Take it slow. Start my removing it when it’s being used for habit, rather than for soothing. Keeping it for car rides and sleeping for the first few days while they ease into it, this will give your toddler a chance to start getting used to not having it ALL the time. Once they have adjusted to a few days like this, decide on a date, and get rid of them all. 
  • Have realistic expectations, and make sure you’re consistent, patient and confident in the decision you have made. For whatever reason, you and your family have decided to get rid of the dummy. You have set your child up to know what’s going on, so stick to it. 
 
Reach out to us HERE if you have any further specific questions you may have. We’re always here to help, and make this whole sleeping journey as easy as we can for you and your family.