Pacifiers, dummies, binkies, soothers,….. whatever you choose to call them, nothing divides parents like the debate around their use. Parents either love dummies or hate them! While there is medical research to support their use (better for immunity and associated with lower rates of sudden infant death), there is also research highlighting their detrimental impact on gum, teeth and speech development, as well as an association with inner ear infections.
Despite which side of the fence you sit on, eventually your child is going to have to be weaned off the pacifier and this milestone is not an easy one. From hours of defiant screaming to tough negations, the “dummy break-up” is a battle akin to something out of Game of Thrones. So I thought I would equip you with a few tricks and tips that I’ve picked up from my paediatric nurses to help you survive the battle and win the war.
Timing is everything: Most paediatricians would recommend that parents should be aiming to wean their child off the dummy by the age of 10 months, but find a time that is right for your family, because, timing is key. Since you will be negotiating with someone who has the willpower of an ox and the vocal cords of a banshee, you should try to avoid weaning off the pacifier during periods of stress, illness or transitions. Catch them at a time when there are lots of happy distractions (Christmas) or life events that you can use as a motivational incentive (becoming a big brother, starting nursery etc)
Tell everyone: There is nothing more frustrating than making huge progress with dummy weaning over a weekend, only to find your child gleefully sucking on it again after a day at the childminders. Make sure that everyone who looks after your child knows that you are weaning your child off the dummy, and the strategies you are using. Make sure they know the times, places and durations you are allowing pacifier use.
Use a slow wean: The general belief is that a slow wean is better tolerated than a cold turkey. Start with only using the dummy in the house, then only around naptime and bedtimes then only at night and then end the journey with a note from the “dummy fairy” thanking them for the dummy.
Keep them entertained: This links in with timing, if your child’s day is full of activities and new challenges, they are more likely to forget old habits. It is during periods of boredom, that we are most likely to turn to old habits that we know will entertain and soothe us. At bedtime, talk about how exciting and amazing their day was, and praise them for not using the dummy telling them how proud you are! This will form a connection between fun times, praise and no dummy use.
Happy Bye Bye: Find happy fun ways to see the dummy off. Wrap it as a gift for the tooth fairy, post it to Santa, trade it in for a new toy! Whatever you choose, send a clear visual message that the dummy has now left the building.
Dummy DONT: I’ve come across some contradictory and dangerous advice about weaning children off pacifiers. To do this safely, never cut or alter the dummy, this increases the risk of fragments falling off and causing choking in children.
Helper Bees sitters are trained to wean babies off pacifiers using safe and trauma-free approaches. Why not give us a ring, and let us be the bad guy.