1. Preschoolers
  2. Sleep
  3. Night-time problems

Letting go of the dummy

1-6 years

A dummy is only a small thing, but it might mean a lot to your child. Here are some tips for helping your child to stop using a dummy when the time is right for both of you.

How to wean baby off dummy: things to consider

As a parent, you’re best placed to decide on the right time for the dummy to go – it’s your decision.

Sometimes children decide to give up their dummies by themselves. Most often, parents are the ones who decide. Try not to feel rushed or pressured by the reactions of family, other children or even strangers.

Your child is likely to have become very attached to the dummy. Touching and sucking on the dummy comforts and soothes your child. And like other attachment objects, dummies can help young children manage everyday stress in their lives.

But there comes a time when the dummy has to go. Your child probably won’t find it easy to part with. So if you feel it’s time for the dummy to go, a gradual approach is the fairest and easiest.

Tips for weaning off dummy

When you’re ready to stop or reduce your child’s use of a dummy, the following ideas can help:

  • Take some pressure off by reminding yourself that sucking a dummy never becomes a lifelong habit. Many children will stop using a dummy by themselves.
  • Choose your timing. A period of change or stress for you or your child might not be a good time to give up.
  • Talk to your child about giving up the dummy, if your child is old enough to understand.
  • When you and your child are ready, start by limiting dummy use to certain times and places – for example, the car or cot. This gives your child a chance to get used to being without the dummy.
  • Once your child is coping for longer periods without the dummy, set a time and date – then take away the dummy.
  • Mark the occasion of becoming dummy free with a celebration or special reward.
  • Finally, try not to turn back. No matter how well you’ve prepared your child for this change, expect some discomfort and some protest.
It might be easier and more fun to help your child give his dummy away. For example, you could suggest leaving it for Santa or the Easter Bunny, or putting it in the bird feeder for the baby birds. This way, you can be honest but understanding when you say you don’t have your child’s dummy anymore. Just remember to throw all the dummies away. You don’t want your child to find the dummy he thinks the baby birds have!

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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