How To Transition Out Of Dummies, Pacifiers & Thumb Sucking

There is a lot of judgment around the use of dummies and pacifiers, and many parents feel they have to get rid of their baby's dummies as soon as possible.

But whether or not your baby uses a dummy is not an indicator of a good or successful mother.

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When you are making the decision to transition your baby out of their dummy or pacifier consider the balance of your own self-judgments and your baby’s mental health needs.

I have a friend who is a dentist, who coincidently sucked her thumb until she was ten years old! She now teaches: Mental Health Before Dental Health.

Whilst your child’s dental health may be affected if dummy use or thumb sucking continues after the age of six, you need to weigh up the risks and benefits. 

Some children can be traumatised by the sudden removal of their self-soothing habit and it can be very distressing. 

Some children, of course, find the transition very easy. So only you, as a parent, can make the right decision for your family.

Making The Transition

How you get rid of the dummy depends very much on the age of your child and how often your baby uses it.

If your baby is fairly calm and well settled you might be able to lose the dummy before your baby is six months old. Dr Harvey Karp believes that this is the easiest age because your baby is not yet emotionally attached to the dummy. It also means that the dummy can help you out during the period of purple crying, but not become a long-term habit.

In theory, this is a nice idea, but in reality, it rarely works. Might be worth a try - but don’t count on it!

For some babies and toddlers getting rid of the dummy is a big adjustment that can take weeks. For others it’s surprisingly easy - some even give it up on their own! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • You can replace the dummy with another sleep aid like a teddy or a blanket.
  • Only allow the dummy for sleep and not during the day.
  • You can start removing the dummy from your baby’s mouth after they are asleep to see if they can get back to sleep without it.
  • Connect the dummy to the bedding with a dummy clip to show it’s only for bedtime.

For older children there are some excellent books on these topics; just ask Guru Google! Also, it may help with older children to discuss the reasons why you are encouraging them to stop, and giving them some other comforters like weighted blankets, fidget toys or chewellery (chewable jewellery).

Keep in mind that the transition might be stressful, so choose a time when you can be emotionally present for your child and there is not too much else going on. Communicate your plan with your child ahead of time and let them know how proud you are that they are putting in the effort to go to sleep on their own.

Self-soothing habits are usually replaced, sometimes with worse habits like biting nails until they bleed! Tune in to your child’s mental health and discuss the transition with them if they are old enough to help come up with a plan.

So, go on! Let us know in the comments if you were a thumb sucker or had a dummy? Or have you successfully supported your child through the transition?

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