As parents, you may choose to use a dummy to help soothe your child. This is a widely acceptable strategy as babies have a strong sucking reflex and this can often help to soothe them if they are upset or crying. However, prolonged use of a dummy may lead to delayed development of speech and language skills because:
- With a dummy in their mouth your child may not babble, and this is an important stage of them learning to talk.
- A dummy restricts tongue movements, making it difficult for your child to make the sounds, t, d, l, s and sh.
- Prolonged use of a dummy can lead to gaps between the upper and lower front teeth, which may lead to a lisp when making sounds like s and z.
- When your child has their dummy in their mouth, they may be less likely to want to talk.
- Some children find it difficult to get a good lip closure due to excessive use of a dummy and be more inclined to dribble.
Here are 5 top tips to help you wean your child off their dummy
Getting your child to give up their dummy is not always easy, but it becomes more difficult as they get older. Our Early Childhood Specialist, Dawn, shares some helpful steps you can take to make this transition a success:
- Choose the right time for you both! It’s best not to try and wean your child off their dummy at a time when you are both under pressure, e.g. when they are moving rooms in nursery or when a new baby arrives.
- Make a clean break. Throw away the dummy over the weekend or at a time that you have support at home. Most babies and toddlers will only fret and miss their dummy for 2 to 3 days. Some parents like to send the dummies to Santa or the Tooth Fairy!
- Stick with your decision. Once you’ve decided to stop using the dummy, you may have moments where you second guess your decision. However, it’s important to stick with it and not to give the dummy back to your child. It can help not to have any ‘spare’ dummies hiding around the house!
- Encourage speech development. If your child tries to talk with a dummy in their mouth, gently remove it and then ensure that you continue with the conversation with your child.
- Phasing out. Whilst your child is still using their dummy, try and use it as little as possible and try other means of soothing them such as cuddling them and reading a story together.