Before we even have children we often have some kind of opinion on if our child will use a dummy or not. Then when we have a children and our opinion can soon change. Whether you love them or hate them, dummies can be an effective tool to help your child achieve a quality sleep, especially in the first few months of life. So let’s talk about the facts, the impact they can have on a child’s sleep (positive and negative), as well the best time to move on from a dummy if your child has one.
Sucking, whether it be a dummy, bottle, breast or hand, triggers a calming reflex, relieves hunger and releases soothing endorphins. Sucking is often known as the equivalent to some pain medication for a baby. A dummy can be a wonderful soothing tool for your baby in earlier months, especially those who are suffering from colic, wind or reflux.
Babies who suffer from reflux in the early months find comfort and relief by sucking on a dummy. The swallowing action helps to keep stomach acids down and from tracking up the esophagus, causing painful burning and irritation. Understandably those parent who have a child with reflux decide to use one to help their child and family get some form of quality sleep. However, if your child is suffering from reflux they may also need mediation to help reduce symptoms further.
Once your baby is 6 months of age, and even sooner for some, a dummy can become a deterrent to maintaining a sound sleep patterns. A dummy can start to work against your child achieving a healthy sleep and become a crutch, causing them to wake unnecessarily between cycles. Remember the golden rule: ‘The way your child goes to sleep should be the way they wake up’. If a child is sucking a dummy to sleep and it falls out, when they wake briefly during the transition phase between sleep cycles, they will recognize they are no longer sucking the dummy. This will cause them to wake and search for it, as there has been an environmental change from when they went to sleep. This can then lead to an inability to self-settle and resettle effectively.
When assessing if your child needs to move on from the dummy, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:
Does my child wake multiple times a night looking for the dummy or wanting me to replace the dummy for them?
Can my child self-settle and resettle independently without the dummy?
What is your child using the dummy for? Is it only used at bed time?
Have they been given an opportunity to go to sleep without the dummy or is it just habit for everyone that they get the dummy at bed time?
Is your child’s dummy creating early morning wake ups?
These are often hard questions to ask ourselves as parents, because we don’t often like the answers. We often don’t like to think that it’s time to move on from the dummy, as it has also become such a dependence for us as parents. This is often because we know it can get them to sleep and settle them down when upset. But once your child is of an age (often over 4-6 months) they now have the ability to move on from the dummy with confidence and little stress. It is often us as parents who prolong this learning process out of pure parental fear of change.
However, if your child is using a dummy and it is working than there is no real need for change until you are ready. But unfortunately change does need to happen if a dummy is making your child’s sleep worse not better. My opinion on dummies is pretty natural, if it is working then great, if it is not then let’s move on. Your child is defiantly capable of sleeping without a dummy and your voice, touch and presence is more soothing and comforting to them than a dummy. Provided your learn to sleep technique is practiced well and according to your child’s temperament.
If you are worried that your child’s dummy is causing sleep issues for your child, then I recommend that it’s time to move on from the dummy. If you are starting any new learn to sleep journey, I recommend removing the dummy at the beginning. Going ‘cold turkey’, it sounds scary but by far the kindest way to help your child learn to sleep independently, without it. It is the fastest and least confusing way to move away from a dummy. A gradual removal approach has the will confuse, unset and prolong the learning process. You will find that the process with be much easier then you anticipate. As mentioned it is us, as parents, who have more of an attachment to the dummy then our children.
If your child has a dummy and sleep is not an issue then you might like to move on from it once your child is at an age (around 2 years) where they are able to understand that “the Easter bunny took the dummy”, or “we gave it to Santa to give to another little boy or girl”. Whatever it might be, be honest in the fact that you are letting them know that it not coming back. Regardless what age you move on from the dummy, going cold turkey is the kindest and easiest way. This means all dummies in the house are removed and put in the bin so there are no temptations to give one back to your child during a time of upset or weakness. Any time of upset when learning to sleep without the dummy, are often the best times for learning and a little more support from mum and dad is often needed.
If the dummy is something you are not quite ready to move on from, then it is important to remember that until they are able to ‘find and replace’ the dummy themselves when settling and re-settling to sleep, you will be doing this job for them. If they are at an age (usually 8-10 months) where they are able to learn to ‘find and replace’ the dummy, you can teach them to do this independently, by encouraging them to pick it up each time, not you. You can also place many dummies in the cot, or attach to a comforter (if they have one), to help the finding process easier for your child.
Either way a child who has a dummy, no matter how good or bad they sleep, will not truly learn how to self-settle and resettle until the dummy is removed. So at some stage throughout your child’s life, if they use a dummy, will need to learn these skill, as they the foundation to a good quality sleep for your child.
As always, it is important to parent in a way that suits your family. By considering all information available, you will be in a position to make an informed choice that suits your child best. If you are needing any extra support, to help your child move on from a dummy, then please contact me.