Get them off the soother!
Soothers are amazing little things. They make it possible for parents all over the world to get a few peaceful nights of sleep. Unfortunately, like all good things, too much of it can be a problem. When your baby becomes too reliant on the dummy, it starts to do more harm than good. When this happens, it may be time to pull the plug.
Cutting down on dummy time and saying goodbye to it all together has a lot of benefits. That said, apart from some unique medical scenarios, the decision to get your child off the pacifier is entirely up to you.
Once you decide it is time to let it go, the next step would be to find the best alternative to soothing your child and figuring out how to replace the dummy with it. Here is how to wean your little one off the dummy.
When is the right time to get rid of the pacifier?
Babies enjoy sucking because it reminds them of when they were in the womb. It also activates your little one's calming reflexes. Some babies will primarily suckle their mothers and others will suck on the pacifier. Here are a few scenarios for when to stop the dummy:
- You should get your child off the dummy before they form an attachment to it, and this usually takes around 9 months. Before your child becomes attached and dependent on it, you should start the weaning process.
- If the use of a pacifier is making it difficult for your child to start talking, it is time to start weaning them off.
- Sucking on a pacifier too much can also affect your toddler's dental arrangement. If your dentist advises that you cut down or completely cease pacifier use, then it is time.
- Pacifier use has also been associated with ear infections and if you have had multiple trips to the pediatrician for the same, it is a sign to cut down on pacifier use.
In some cases, you might be jumping the gun trying to wean off the dummy. It is not time to worry about it if:
- Your child does not use the pacifier all the time.
- Your child is under 8 months old.
- The use of the pacifier is not affecting any aspect of your little one's growth and development both socially and health-wise.
What dummy should I use?
There are a couple of things you should consider when choosing a pacifier for your baby/toddler:
- Ensure the dummy is made of one piece. If it is a two-piece dummy, it might come apart and cause a choking hazard.
- The shield around the pacifier should be hard and made of strong plastic. There should also be some air holes on the shield to eliminate the risk of suffocation.
- For children under 6 months old, be keen that the pacifier is dishwasher-safe and once they are older you can get ones that can be washed with soap and water.
- Pacifiers come in two or tree sizes depending on the child's age so choose one that is appropriate to ensure your little one is comfortable.
- Ensure the dummy is made of hypoallergenic material since some children have rubber allergies.
How to easily wean off the dummy
Here are a few tips you can use to successfully wean your child off of the pacifier.
Cut the dummy gradually day by day
One interesting strategy you can employ involves literally cutting the dummy gradually every day. Take a pair of scissors and cut about 3mm off the tip. Your toddler will notice the difference the first time, but they may not be ready to let go just yet. So what do you have to do? Simple: repeat this process every 3-4 days. Eventually, the hole will be so big that sucking on the dummy won’t be fun anymore, and your little one will decide for themselves that it no longer suits them. Just be sure to make the cutting a gradual process: little by little until your child gives up on it. It might take a few weeks, but it’ll happen.
Set some limits
You can slowly wean out the pacifier by setting boundaries, especially with a toddler. Establish that they can't use their pacifier during certain times and in certain rooms of the house. Slowly by slowly, their interest in it will fade away.
Make it disappear
This sounds like a rather harsh method but children work with an out of sight, out of mind perspective. Once the pacifier is unavailable, they might throw some tantrums in protest but it’ll pass.
You can get creative with how you make the dummy disappear. For example, you can tell them that the soother fairy will trade them a toy for their dummy if they leave it under their pillow at night.
A pacifier is a tool of comfort and in its place, you can gradually introduce another object that is meant to serve the same purpose. Consider talking to your toddler about this and offer to take them to the toy shop and let them pick out whatever replacement toy they’d like. Then make a show of exchanging the dummy for the new toy.
Alternatively, you can replace the dummy with a comfort object that you already own. For example, if they have a favorite blanket, you can make this their primary comfort object. Other methods like singing and rocking to soothe the child can also work.
Make a big show of letting the dummy go
You can organize a solemn farewell event for the dummy. Get imaginative with this. For example, the soother could be missing its family, who live in Sootherland. The soother family misses him, too, so it’s time to say goodbye. You can then buy a helium balloon, attach the dummy to it, and release it as you all wave goodbye to it and wish it a safe journey to Sootherland.
Sometimes, your toddler can surprise you when you just lay out the facts for them and let them make their own decisions. Prolonged use of dummies can lead to bite defects. Some children can react to such information about future defects if you take the time to explain it to them logically.
While dummies are great, there comes a time when too much of a good thing becomes bad. It is entirely up to you when this moment will be. However, when you decide that it’s time to wean your little one off the dummy, the tips and tricks outlined here will help make the transition as smooth as possible.