Weaning a toddler off a dummy: a 15-day plan

Bad habit? A dummy offers advantages - but has its disadvantages, too.
Bad habit? A dummy offers advantages - but has its disadvantages, too. 

Weaning your child off the dummy can be a traumatic experience for both of you. Here are some tips to help you through.

Vivienne Van Eijkelenborg, the owner of Difrax, a company which makes three stages of dummies, offers a 15-day strategy to breaking the dummy habit.

Days 1 to 5

Explain to your child that as kids get bigger, they no longer use a dummy. Point out other kids and people you might run into so they can see who has a soother and who doesn't. Depending on the age of the child, you can also talk to them about how a dummy affects their teeth. Then slowly wean your child like you did for breastfeeding.

Begin by only offering the dummy in certain situations, like in the car, when they're hurt, in the cot at nap or bedtime (when it's truly needed for soothing vs out of habit), then start taking it away one situation at a time. Your child will find comfort through other things, but going cold turkey will be hard on you and your tot. You can come up with other ways to soothe your child such as reading a story, or rewarding them with stickers or an extra hug if they're able to go to sleep without the dummy.

Make sure everyone is onboard with this process. Ensure nannies, babysitters, and especially grandma know that you are trying to get rid of the dummy. It will do you no good to work hard and be the bad guy if Grandma is slipping your child one whenever she watches him!

Day 5-15

Take away the dummy during the day.

Let your child know that dummies rest and are put to bed during the day. Also you can prick the dummy with a tiny pinhole, as it will cause the dummy to become useless. Your child will think it is broken and will not enjoy sucking on it anymore.

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You can ask the child to earn "dummy time" if she must use it during the day. Use the dummy as a reward for eating all her vegetables or using the toilet. Depending on how old your child is, you can use it to encourage alone time or room cleaning. You'll be able to stop offering it eventually, and you'll have created some healthy habits in your child.

Days 6-10

Tell your child it's okay to miss the dummy but that there are other ways to feel comforted, such as a hug or finding an activity she enjoys doing, like colouring, reading, playing with toys, etc.

Tell her that all big kids give up dummies. Use your child's current role models (book, TV, video game characters) to demonstrate who doesn't have a dummy.

Days 10-12

Make sure you have located all the dummies in the house and ask your child to say "goodbye" to some of them. Pull them out of your nappy bag, purse, dishwasher, under the couch, bed, etc - if your child takes a look at a dummy all your hard work will take a step back!

Days 11-15

Prepare for the final days of the last dummy. Your child can also try sleeping without the dummy at this point, although you may keep it close by (but very well hidden) just in case.

Day 15

Today your child puts the last dummy into an envelope and sends it to the Dummy Fairy. Alternatively, you can have the Dummy Fairy visit in the middle of the night like the Tooth Fairy, where she takes the pacifier and leaves a gift (usually a stuffed animal or blankie - something that can bring comfort). You can do it one night only, or leave little things each night that your child is able to go without the dummy.

- MCT

Have you got any tips for getting rid of the dummy?

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