Weaning your child off the dummy can be a tedious exercise, especially when it leads to tantrums. Below are 5 strategies to help wean your child off the dummy in a smooth and pain-free style.
Before we begin, it’s important to know some facts about the dummy.
- Dummies are not ‘bad’. In fact, using a dummy with infants can help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Dummies are best used when breastfeeding, usually after the first 4-6 weeks.
- Dummies are best discontinued by 2-4years of age.
- Based on research, using a dummy after 4yrs of age can lead to dental issues (malocclusion), speech issues (interdental lisps or tongue thrusts) and hearing issues (Otitis Media).
- Weaning is the process of withdrawing the dummy from the child. This process can often take 8-12months. The best time to start is when the child is at 12-18months.
- Children who struggle to let go of the dummy often use it as their main source of comfort.
Children struggle to let go of the dummy because it's a source of comfort. Since they were infants, they developed the habit of using a dummy as the main source of comfort, especially when they are crying or going to sleep. With this in mind, find new ways to comfort them when they feel sad, angry, bored or upset. Try hugging, tickling, cuddling, singing, rocking, stickers, going to the park or praise “You are so clever, I love you".
2. Use magic, images and symbols to distract
According to Piaget, by the age of two, children begin to think in images and symbols. Children at this age are ‘magical thinkers’ as they engage in pretend play and easily believe in magical theories. Use ‘magic’ to help them understand why they can’t have the dummy. e.g. ‘You are a big boy now, I am going to put some magic powder (cacao) on your lips to help you sleep’ or tell them to put the dummy under their pillow for the dummy fairy to replace it with something more exciting like a toy car. Use a mirror to show them their ‘big boy’ face e.g. ‘Look at your face, you are a big boy now’. Use visuals to give them alternatives e.g. ‘You can’t have the dummy but you can have the Lego/Car/Doll etc’.
Children love imitating adults (to them, you are Supermum or Superdad). Give them ‘adult-like’ responsibilities throughout the day reminding them that they are a big boy/girl now. Let them help you with the groceries or wiping the tables.
4. Don’t need to go cold turkey
Whilst removing the dummy completely might work with some toddlers, it doesn’t work with all. Children develop independence and become more stubborn by the age of 12months. Removing a dummy all together might cause tantrums and behaviours to last longer than a week. Instead, go gradual and remove the dummy every second or third day. Tell them they can have it at bed time tomorrow (start with every second day) and keep to your promises so that they are able to build their trust in you. Remember to always replace it with a something else like a teddy or toy. When they are ready to stop using the dummy all together, engage them in a fun activity or mission such as wrapping it up and giving it to a new born baby or sending it away on a holiday.
5. Provide positive praise
Children feed off words. Using positive words and comments, are vital for learning new information, developing positive habits and improving self-image. Praise your child for even the smallest accomplishments. Say things like, ‘I can't believe you are acting like a big strong boy/girl and not asking for your dummy’. Be specific with praise, don’t just comment on how ‘good’ or ‘clever’ they are but also ‘how well they packed away’ or ‘how well they helped you wipe the table’.
On a final note, remember that timing is important. Getting rid of the dummy when your child is going through a tough time or when you are going through some changes at home/school (e.g. moving houses, schools, have a new baby etc.) is not the right time to start.
For more information, please speak to a feeding specialist, speech therapist or occupational therapist.
To book a speech, language or feeding assessment, contact Sally Hanna Kodsy at Your Speech Room or email firstname.lastname@example.org.