Pacifier, dummy, soother, binky. All of these names refer to the little piece of rubber that has provided your little one with hours of reassuring comfort and has given you a little peace of mind (and quiet) too. However reassuring it may be, there will come a time for the dummy to go.
Every bub is unique. When it’s time to wean them off the pacifier, each will react differently. Some will make an easy transition without too much fuss while others will test your patience (and their lungs) in the process.
Here are a few guidelines and tips that may help you along the way.
Why is the dummy important to my baby?
Once you understand what’s behind your baby’s need to suck on their binky, then it will be easier to work out which strategy will produce the best results.
If you’re not sure, think about when your baby is most comforted by their pacifier. Here are some common reasons:
- They are upset and need to settle
- They are tired and ready for sleep
- They’ve grown attached to it. It’s simple become a habit, like having a little security blanket
- They are unable to ‘pop’ their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve ear pain caused by changes in air pressure and the pacifier helps them do this
When is the best time to wean your child off the pacifier?
If you’re waiting for the ‘right’ time or searching for the ‘right’ way, our advice is:
Do what feels right for you and your child.
Just know, the earlier you decide to remove the dummy, the easier it will be… for everyone.
There are some key stages in your child’s development that may be impacted by the use of a pacifier.
If you’re using the pacifier for more than:
12 months – it can interfere with your child’s language development. It’s a bit hard for them to practise formulating words with a dummy in their mouth. Constant sucking on a pacifier or thumb past this age may also result in a lisp. Sucking on the pacifier may also cause abnormal development of their tongue and lip muscles.
Two years – dental problems such as protruding teeth may form.
Four years – you could be up for some long-term (and costly) dental issues.
When not to wean them off
The pacifier is there for comfort, so it’s best not to try and wean your child off during a time of change or stress in their life such as:
- Starting at childcare
- Moving into a new room or house
- Major emotional times in the family.
Sensible solutions are often the simplest… and most effective
Remove the temptation – make sure the dummy is not always within reach. If they can’t see it, they’re less likely to want it.
Take your time – when they do ask for it, take a little longer each time before giving it to them. Eventually they’ll stop asking or become distracted with something else.
Avoid using ‘the word’ – even at a young age, children understand. Saying ‘no, you’re not having binky’ can just make the problem worse!
Young children are easily distracted – so change the subject, play a game, go for a walk, watch a favourite video or have a cuddle.
A gentle approach might do the trick
One of the most popular methods is to slowly wean baby off their dummy. If they are used to having it at every little whimper, then try persisting through those moments and just give them the pacifier at bedtime and nap-time.
From there you can wean them even further to just bed-time. Remember you still have the replacement idea so offer that as well if they need that extra bit of comfort through the transition.
Once it’s time to remove the pacifier altogether at bedtime, start by waiting until they fall asleep and then remove it altogether. From there you can progress to the final stage of putting them to bed without the pacifier.
Offer a replacement
The first (and often the best) replacement to try is YOU! A little extra loving might be all bub needs to feel comforted. You could try gently swinging or rocking them, singing quietly or some relaxing massage to soothe them. The next best could be to offer something to cuddle such as a soft toy or blanket, especially for older babies.
If you’re feeling brave, go cold turkey!
Some babies (and parents) do better with the cold turkey approach. Sure, you may have a few ‘moments’ before bub realises that binky just isn’t coming back, but if you remain attentive and firm, they will soon get the idea and find other ways to comfort themself.
Here are a few gentle ways to go cold turkey:
Binky is lost – this works well with older children. There may be tears (yours and theirs) but if you appear concerned and offer lots of cuddles, you may just win the binky battle.
You’re a big girl/boy now – once again this is perfect for older children. You might give them a little warning, “You know on your birthday, it will be time to say goodbye to binky?”
The reward – or ‘the bribe!’ There’s nothing wrong with offering a reward to your child for doing something that is difficult for them. Think about what they would really like and give them lots of praise for a job well done.
Enlist everyone’s support in your dummy-weaning plan
It’s important that everyone in the family is on board with your plan to wean bub off the pacifier. Let your daycare provider know as well as anyone looking after your child during the period of weaning.
Tell them your plan. The key here is respect and consistency. They need to respect your wishes and be consistent in executing your plan.
Be firm on this. If your child doesn’t get his dummy at home, but Grandma lets them have it at her place, they’ll be confused and it will make the job of weaning them off it a lot harder.
You know your child, so you will know which approach will work best for them. Get creative and you’re sure to come up with an acceptable reason for binky to get the flick.
Above all, stay calm, be persistent and remember – it will end!
Book a tour of one of our beautiful, state-of-the-art centres near you. Bring your child (and their binky.) We’d love to see you.