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

Dummies: helping your child let go

1-5 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.

Weaning your child off the 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

Here are some things you can do before you begin to reduce your child’s dummy use:

  • 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 to begin, try these ideas:

  • Try using the dummy less for comforting during the day. One way to do this is to put the dummy away in a special spot, then get it out only as part of the sleep routine. This will help this process go faster.
  • Limit 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.
  • Gradually use the dummy less and less when re-settling your child during the night. For example, give the dummy to your child every second time he cries in the night on day two, then every third time on day three, and so on.

Once your child is coping for longer periods without the dummy, set a time and date – then take away the dummy. These ideas might help:

  • Mark the occasion of becoming dummy free with a celebration or special reward.
  • 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 her dummy away. For example, you could suggest hanging it on the tree for fairies to give to other babies who don’t have a dummy. Or putting it in the bird feeder for the baby birds. This way, if your child asks for it back, you can tell her you don’t have it any more. Just remember to throw all the dummies away. You don’t want your child to find the dummy she thinks the baby birds have!

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Last updated or reviewed
12-06-2018

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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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