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Breaking the dummy habit

If your baby reaches one year and is still dependent on his dummy, particularly to get to sleep, it would be wise to try to break the habit during the second year. The older he gets, the harder it will be for him to give it up. Apart from the possible damage that the constant sucking on a dummy can do to his teeth, you should also consider the social implications. Toddlers and older children often become targets of ridicule by their peers if they are known still to use a dummy.

If you are planning to eliminate the dummy, the following points should be considered:

  • Do not allow relatives or friends to make fun of your child for still using a dummy. In my experience, comments such as 'Only babies have dummies' or 'You look silly with that dreadful thing in your mouth' can make a sensitive children feel very inferior, causing him much stress and increasing his need for the dummy.
  • Never attempt to get rid of the dummy just prior to or straight after the arrival of a new baby.
  • Your toddler or child should be in good health and fully recovered from any illness when you attempt to wean him off the dummy.
  • Eliminating the dummy should be avoided during times when major changes are about to take place, for example moving house, starting nursery, mother returning to work.
  • With an older child who is being stubborn about giving up the dummy, reassure him that you will not take his dummy away from him, but he must use it only in his bedroom. And remind him how proud you will be when he decides to give it to the little babies in the hospital or Aunty Susan's new baby.

How you get rid of the dummy depends very much on the age of your child and how often he uses it. With a toddler aged less than two years it is better to go cold turkey, as he is still too young to reason with. Trying to eliminate gradually rarely works as the constant whingeing and crying over several hours usually wears the parent down into submission. If your toddler is used to having a dummy during the day as well as at night, I would advise that you get rid of it over a weekend when your partner is around. This way you will have help in keeping your toddler very busy with lots of activities. He will most probably be miserable for the first day that he is denied it, but getting him out of the house doing things that require lots of physical energy will help to minimise the whingeing. Take him swimming and to the park to play with a ball and go on the swings, roundabouts etc. When at home try to involve him with finger painting, gardening and water play. It is also probably better not to attempt to put him in his cot for his midday nap, as it is unlikely he will settle without his dummy, and you do not want to get him worked up into a state in the middle of the day. If you are out and about, he will hopefully have a catnap in the buggy or car.

That evening when you settle him to sleep you can try introducing a special new toy that he will hopefully use as a replacement comforter. He will more than likely be very difficult to settle and you will probably have to do 'controlled crying', checking him every five to ten minutes until he eventually gets to sleep. The same approach should be used in the night if he awakes crying for his dummy. In my experience and from the feedback I get from parents of children this age, the worst is usually over within two or three nights.

With a child over two years one has to be much more careful how getting rid of the dummy is approached. The mind and imagination of a child this age are developing very rapidly, and taking the dummy away suddenly could cause much more emotional upset than it would with a younger child.

If your child is still using the dummy during the day, restrict it to being used in his room. Gradually decreasing his dependency on it will make it easier for you to persuade him to give it up. My cousin persuaded her little girl of three years to give all her dummies to the tiny babies who were in hospital 'and didn't have a dummy'. For being so thoughtful to these little babies she was allowed to choose a special new toy. Simba the lion was a great hit, and helped her to settle to sleep happily at night without the dummy. Another good idea is to get a friend to come around and explain that all the shops have sold out of dummies and her little baby really needs one. Making a nice gesture of wrapping the dummy up in pretty paper to give to the baby as a present often makes an older child feel important about the kind gesture he is making.

Sometimes forgetting to pack the dummy when you go on holiday will also work. The fact that children are normally so excited about going on holiday, and bedtimes are usually much later with no pressure of work for parents during the day, can help get over the first couple of days of the dummy being eliminated. Trips to the beach and extra treats of an ice cream for being such a good boy or girl managing without their dummy will also help make the first couple of days go more smoothly.

Taken from The Contented Toddler Years by Gina Ford

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