When I speak to parents these days, they often mention their child has a dummy like it is a guilty secret... Dummies can be useful in helping children comfort themselves, settle off to sleep, and can also give parents a little piece and quiet - what's wrong with that? In fact, dummies can help some babies (particularly those that are premature or who have difficulties feeding) develop good sucking patterns.
However, the research is clear that dummies can affect communication skills, as well as increasing the risk of ear infections and dental problems. Children start to babble and experiment with sounds around 6 months, an important stage in speech development. Children who are using a dummy are less likely to do this - as this 'child' (actually Kathy Burke) says, “it’s like having a big carrot in your mouth, you can’t talk properly!” This is a great video - do watch it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k_gbicdYLg).
Our advice is to try to #dumpthedummy around your child's first birthday. But how?
- The dummy fairy/elf comes to visit little children’s houses when they don’t need a dummy anymore, and ‘magics’ away their dummy in the night. The dummy fairy/elf often leaves behind a small toy, or at least a sense of wonder – a bit of glitter and gold paper stars maybe? Your child can leave their dummy for him/her somewhere special – at the bottom of a tree in the garden, on a windowsill where they might sneak in, maybe next to the fireplace (think Santa).
- Dummy baby. One friend’s little girl Lara loves her dolls, and understood that dummies were best for babies. She left her dummy by her bed one night, and in the morning she had a new baby doll – ‘dummy baby!’ Dummy baby had only come because Lara understood she was now a big girl, and that dummies were for babies like her new doll. Her new doll also acted as a comforter when she was seeking reassurance and would normally ask for her dummy – she gave dummy baby a big hug instead!
- Books are available (‘The Last Noo-Noo’ by Jill Murphy, ‘Florrie the Dummy Fairy’ by Anthony Crosbie, ‘Ben Gives Up His Dummy’ by Jenny Album) to help you explain to your child why they no longer need a dummy, and to help them accept leaving the dummy behind
- If going ‘cold turkey’ is too tricky, phase out the dummy until it’s only used at bed time. You could do this by using a sticker chart or other small rewards (such as marbles in a jar), at first taking away your child’s dummy when they are enjoying another activity (such as playing with toy cars) then rewarding them for having fun without their dummy.
- A ‘magic box’ for the dummy helped one little boy keep his dummy just for bed time. He was amazed how when he put his dummy in the box in the morning, it would disappear when he wasn’t looking, but then it would come back again at night when he was ready for bed.
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist