How to ditch the dummy for good

Kinderling News & Features

Is the dummy dominating your family life? Does your kid cry for it daily and need it to sleep?

Breaking the addiction can be difficult – after all, children get super-attached to their soothing sucker and don’t like getting separated.

Going cold turkey can lead to confusion and melt-downs, but our resident child expert and Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue has a more effective (and gradual) way of bidding bye-bye to your child’s best friend.

Discussing the dummy dilemma on Monday’s Kinderling Helpline after an SOS from listener Madeleine and her seven-month-old, Chris says the key is learning the difference between ‘independent sleep association’ and ‘dependent sleep association’.

Listen to Kinderling Helpline:

“Independent is the child can get into bed, roll around, even cry for a few minutes and then get themselves off to sleep,” she explains. “Dependent is [needing] the pat, the rock, the feed or the dummy to sleep.”

The good news? Chris says these dependencies can be overcome at any stage. Her approach is to wean them off the unwanted behaviour and slowly introduce the correct one into your routine.

She warns it’s not going to be without tears (and how many depends on what you’re comfortable with, of course), but hopefully this approach minimises them as you transition.   

Here’s what she advises:

1. Start by delaying the dummy

“Put them down to bed and try and give them some time and space to settle themselves. They might need a snuggly toy with them but give them three to five minutes [alone]. At this point I'm not taking the dummy off them permanently. Go back in and give it to them and lay them down."

2. Gradually increase the time you withhold it

“Next time the dummy comes out, I'd wait longer before I go in and give them the dummy. [This gives the] child a little bit more time to use their own strategy and resilience to go to sleep.

3. Then substitute with other calming techniques

“After a day of delaying, next time leave them for a few minutes to try and self-settle. Then go in and pat them or give them their snuggly toy for a good few minutes before giving them their dummy.”

This tactic, says Chris, gives the child a chance to learn new ways to get themselves to sleep.

“So reassurance from a snuggly toy or a pat from a parent, a few words and then it’s time for sleep. After a few days, the child will have adjusted to other strategies to help them.”

And hopefully that means a better sleep for all.

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website

Got a question of your own? Get in touch with Kinderling Helpline, and tune in Mondays at midday.