My 3.5 year old still uses a dummy and I don't know how to get rid of it without nonstop tantrums. He uses the dummy not only at night (although doesn't call out for it as he knows where to find it and put it back into his mouth) but during the day when he is upset or when he wants comfort. Any tips Nicole on how I can wean my son off his dummy with the least amount of tears??

Dummy use certainly has a use by date and at some time you do need to make the decision to wean your child off.  Unfortunately the longer you leave it, the harder it seems  to become.  Parents often ask me this exact question – how do I do it gently?  Here is essentially how I explain it to them.

Dummies work because when your child sucks they release a chemical which helps them to relax.  (The same with breast feeding and finger or thumb sucking).  The best way to understand you childs reliance on the dummy when used during the day when upset as well is to really think of it as an addiction.  He is addicted to the feeling he gets when he sucks.  As a result, behaviour charts, rewards, reminders whether patient or impatient do not work as parents who have experienced this know!

With younger children who only use the dummy to go to sleep the gentle method of removing the dummy is too stick to your normal bedtime routine, and when you put the dummy in their mouth and they suck, suck, suck then just as they are relaxing break the suction and pull the dummy out, of course it is expected that he will protest and root for the dummy wait 10-20-30 seconds as long as you can and replace the dummy.  Again suck – suck – suck, starting to relax and get sleepy, remove the dummy again.  Protest, wait as long as you can – the aim being to extend the length of time the dummy is out of his mouth and then replace.  For the first few days you seem to go backwards, as going to sleep takes longer, you know that if you just left the dummy in he would be asleep much quicker.  However the whole aim of this is to break the expectation to continually suck. After 3 days he will stop protesting the removal.

Gradually reduce the amount of time that he sucks and increase the amount of time the dummy is out of his mouth for.  I would not leave it in his cot at night, however go back in  and do the same strategy at night.

As for the days, this is a little trickier, the aim really would be to pair his dummy sucking to sooth himself with another type of relaxation.  At three years I would look at reading a book instead, or listening to music,  if out n about put on the radio (on classical station) when you give him the dummy ie. in the car or a set of headphones with a little mp3 when using the dummy.  Again the aim is too reduce the amount of time that the dummy is in his mouth, wait until he is starting to relax and then remove it.  The first few weeks of trying this it is obviously easier to do at home so try to limit the amount of time out.  You certainly need to progress with this strategy and keep heading for the goal post – at some point however you will just need to remove the dummy altogether and throw it away.


Nicole Pierotti

Written by Nicole Pierotti

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