They say that ditching the dummy is harder than childbirth.
This comforting habit becomes a drawn-out problem and the sooner you ditch the dummy the easier it is. Sleep, speech and breathing experts all agree that dummy use must be limited to urgent times such as sleepless nights and major distress. Everyone is different, mums and dads you know your kids best so you know in what situations the dummy is definitely necessary.
Why is it so hard to stop the dummy?
Dummies or pacifiers are a calming or comforting tool which over time becomes a habit. Kids usually grow out of it or stop it with the encouragement of their parents. Some things that can make it hard to ditch the dummy are: having younger siblings who also use a dummy, having multiple dummies around the house or if a big event is happening in the child’s life, for example, health problems and the dummy is used as a comforting tool.
3 easy steps to ditch the dummy
1. Okay, first thing to do is limit the use. Parents, I need you to decide:
- When your child can use the dummy e.g. bedtime.
- Where your child can use the dummy e.g. bedroom.
Now that you’ve decided on it, implement it. Stick with it and understand it will take time and a few failed attempts. However, once your child associates the dummy with a time and place then they will gradually get used to it.
2. Once you’ve achieved this, gradually start weaning your child off of the dummy completely. Set a date when this needs to be achieved by, and again, stick with it.
- Examples of what other mums and dads do: over a two week period they say no to the dummy more frequently to gradually wean their child off of it completely.
- Other parents put the dummy on the Christmas tree for Santa to take. Once Christmas comes around, there is no dummy allowed and it is no longer in the house.
3. Use these tools throughout the above two steps:
- When your child is asleep – remove the dummy.
- Encouragement, distraction and rewards
- Encourage your child each time they fight the urge to ask or use the dummy; this is known as positive reinforcement. I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement, you can say things like “you are such a big boy/girl, you don’t need to use that anymore” – use this if your child is older (3-4 years old).
- Distract them with a walk or craft and play session. Offer a replacement like a favourite toy that they can hug before bedtime instead of the dummy.
- Reward them with extra time to do what they enjoy doing, for example: colouring or playtime with friends.
- Alteration of the dummy
- Some parents flavour or cut a small hole in the top of the dummy.
Dummy effects on teeth
Longterm use of a dummy or pacifier can mean that your child’s mouth muscles do not develop properly. Imagine not being able to swallow and chew your food properly like everyone else. When these important muscles aren’t trained and developed properly from an early age, the tongue position is also affected and it tends to sit in between the teeth. This affects the teeth and they start to protrude forward, many know this as “Bucky Teeth”. This area of dentistry is called Orofacial Myology.
Research shows that sucking a dummy changes the shape of the mouth. When children are young, their bone is very soft and is susceptible to changes. Changes can come about from daily habits such as using a dummy. When a dummy is used consistently over a long period of time it can damage the shape of the soft bone and this creates a certain “look”. Many mums and dads refer to this as a Dummy Overbite. This change can be permanent if this habit continues as the child gets older and can affect the adult teeth as well.
If you think your child’s dummy habit has affected their mouth and face, here are some signs to look for:
- Their front teeth don’t meet anymore. In dental terms this is called an “Open Bite”
- Their top jaw looks narrow and pushed forward
- Their tongue may sit between their front teeth
- They find it hard to bite into things because their teeth don’t meet properly anymore
- They sleep with their mouth open or they are a chronic mouthbreather
I hope this has armed you with some tools to ditch the dummy.
Remember, we’re all human, try your best and at the end of the day we’re here to help if you have any issues or enquires: