Let me start by saying that I am not strictly anti dummy...
What mum could be? We have all been saved from major meltdowns by a quick pop in of the dummy. Maybe they missed their sleep window by a little bit and were getting a bit whiney, they hurt themselves or they are just about to go into a tantrum because you have taken something from them which they can not have. In these instances the dummy can be magic and end any fussing right then and there.
Dummies do have benefits beyond preventing meltdowns, as well. Studies have found that dummies can reduce the risk of SIDS, possibly due to the fact that baby has a harder time pushing their face into soft bedding if they have a dummy attached to their mouth. Therefore, I am basing the rest of this Blog with your baby being over a year old.
That does not make it irrelevant if they are younger than that but it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of taking away the dummy before you make a decision.
Here is the ultimate conundrum from a sleep expert's point of view on the whole dummy issue:
If a child is now used to falling asleep with a dummy in their mouths, they almost always wake up in the night when it has no longer in their mouth, they will cry until someone gets up and pops it right back in their mouth.
Firstly, we need to look at why a baby can't just fall asleep with a dummy and then sleep peacefully until morning. We can then look at methods to use once you are ready to give up the dummy.
Babies and adults both sleep in cycles. A lot of people assume that we fall asleep at the start of the night, go into a deeper level of sleep as the night moves on, then slowly come out of it as the morning comes around.
It is true that we do start in a light sleep and then move to deep sleep and then back again, but it happens multiple times in the night.
Adults will have a sleep cycle of between 90 and 120 minutes and for a baby, it is usually around 50 minutes.
If your baby is struggling to go to sleep without the dummy then there is a big possibility that they are reliant on the dummy in order to fall to sleep. When they move out of a sleep cycle where they are in a very light stage of sleep and are almost awake it is likely they will fully wake up looking for the dummy and get upset because that is what they feel they need in order to get back to sleep. They may even look for it but if they can't find it or they haven’t figured out how to put it in on their own yet, they are going to get even more worked up because they can not get back to sleep, where they will get more and more upset until someone comes and fixes the issue.
This is what we call in the sleep industry a 'prop'. Sometimes it is feeding or rocking to sleep but it is whatever a baby relies on in order to get to sleep in which they can not provide on their own.
This truly is the secret to getting a baby to sleep through the night by eliminating any sleep props. It is hands down the most important part in getting your Little Darling sleeping peacefully from when you place them in their cot until they wake up, happy and refreshed, in the morning.
If you are reading this and nodding your head, knowing this is your baby then you are probably going to need to take some steps to end the dummy use and I have some tips below to help you!
I firmly believe that in this situation a cold turkey approach is the best. Toddlers work well with absolutes and do not understand moderation. My advice is that you just pick a day to make the change, explain to them what is going to happen and then throw them away.
Toddlers can adjust to the new situation easily if things are very clear and consistent. I would not recommend saving any dummies in the house. Some parents ask if they can have the dummy during the day and I say no because it is far too confusing to the child to try and understand why they are allowed it sometimes and not all of the time.
Ok, so you have decided to get rid of the dummy, you have explained to your child what is going to happen. What is next?
It is now time to be creative and come up with a plan. How can you change the dummy give up from a bad thing for your child into something positive?
Toddlers usually embrace the idea becoming a “big boy/girl,” so turning it into an exciting milestone can be a huge help.
You could also introduce the Dummy Fairy by telling your child that the Dummy Fairy will come to collect all of their dummies and, in return, they are going to leave a special gift.
I often see that parents with a toddler and a younger sibling will give the older babies dummies to the younger child. I know on the surface this seems like a good idea but can often lead to resentment from the older child.
You have now laid the foundations, your Little Darling understands what is going to happy and you are now dummy free. It is time to brace yourself as your child is going to go a little off the walls whilst they adjust to the new normal. It is nothing to be concerned over but they will get irritable, emotional and can be a little 'off' whilst they are kicking the habit! They will push back against it and my advice here is distract, distract, distract. Keep some of their favourite snacks on standby, have the iPad at the ready, and when they start to cry about the no dummy, quickly turn their attention to something else.
It is important that you acknowledge their frustration and offer comfort and support as it will be a hard transition for them. However, you are the adult and you have decided that the dummy is no more. Giving in and letting them have the dummy will only reinforce the idea that crying is an good method for getting their way.
Stay firm and this will pass within a few days!
Do you feel that you need help one on one giving up any sleep props?
Book a call below and we can discuss how I can help!