Many babies get attached to their dummies but wind up naturally giving them up at an appropriate age. However, there are some babies who hold fast to that dummy into the toddler years and seem to be completely lost without it. There are several reasons that parents may want to discourage the dummy and find a way to free their child of it for once and all. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task.
It is good to keep in mind that there is a psychological response that is triggered through sucking so that forcing children to give up the dummy too early can be worse than letting them have their security. It is common knowledge that the act of sucking provides comfort for children because it simulates being nurtured/fed. For this reason, many experts believe that forcing a child to go cold turkey can have serious psychological ramifications including, but not limited to, eating disorders in adults.
The Dangers of Going “Cold Turkey”
You will often hear well meaning parents advise you to simply make them go ‘cold turkey.’ This is all well and good for an adult who wants to quit smoking or wants to quit drinking or drugging, but is it good for a child? Probably not! In fact, forced weaning from the dummy can have the opposite effect! Every time something goes wrong that child (into adulthood) might long for that sucking/feeding that he/she had been deprived of during formative years. This often results in eating disorders and substance abuse, according to a good many child psychologists.
Owning the Problem
Whose problem is it anyway? The child certainly sees nothing wrong with sucking on that dummy! Perhaps you are embarrassed that your 3 year old or 4 year old is still attached to the dummy. Mom and dad, sorry to say this, but that is a problem that you need to own. Most normally functioning children will ditch the dummy on their own when they’re ready to venture out into the world without that extra security it provides. Perhaps you should be looking at what is making the child so insecure that he/she needs the constant comfort of that pacifier. Consider the fact, after all, that it is a pacifier we are referring to as a dummy! A dummy is simply a substitute for something else, in this case security! Is there an inordinate amount of stress in the home? Are mom and dad fighting? Is baby kept on a schedule? Remember, kids thrive on structure and a loving environment.
All Things in Good Time
Again, most children will give up their pacifiers when they are secure enough in the world around them to no longer need them. Nonetheless, there will be times when it seems age inappropriate to allow your child to continue sucking that dummy. Sound tips for ditching the dummy would be to work with your child, not against him/her. Some parents have found that substituting other activities can help take the child’s mind off the pacifier. However, it is not a good thing to substitute food as this could lead to eating disorders as well. Remember, the dummy is a pacifier and if you use food to soothe their insecurity then this learned behavior in response to stress or insecurity can lead to the need for ‘pleasure foods.’ Instead, sing songs or play games where they need to talk. Your child can’t very well sing with a dummy in the mouth!
Oh No, It’s Broken!
Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice is the old, “Oh no, it’s broken!” routine. Some parents have found that by puncturing a hole in the dummy and working the gel (nontoxic of course) out of the pacifier the child will find no pleasure in sucking on it. Of course you will need to go through the house to find one that ‘works’ at that point, but if you systematically puncture all the dummies over the course of a couple weeks, your child just might naturally give up on the effort of looking for one that isn’t broken. This is a non-threatening way of forcing the child to wean.
Pretty as a Picture
Some parents have had success with talking to their toddlers about how pretty or handsome they are without the dummy. They will show the child pictures without the dummy and talk about how good they look now that you can see a face. Use this approach cautiously though, as some children are hiding behind the dummy for a reason. Bear in mind that the dummy is a substitute for security and it has been established that self-esteem is formulated in the very early years of development. You never want to imply that your child is doing something wrong that is causing him or her to be unlovable or unappealing. Rather, “It is so much nicer when we can see all of your pretty/handsome face.”
If you sincerely feel that your child is much too old for sucking on a pacifier, then by all means make every effort to utilize effective tips for ditching the dummy. Just be cognizant of the fact that dummies are pacifiers and we, as parents, should be providing that security the child needs. When your child flat-out refuses to ditch the dummy, it’s time to look at what is really going on here. More times than not you will find that there is a simple, non-traumatic solution to the problem. Talk to other parents, talk to your pediatrician, but keep your child’s best interest at heart. Do you own the problem or is it really time to ditch the dummy? If it’s truly time, then go easy as it will be less stressful on both you and your child. Perhaps the most important of all tips for ditching the dummy is learning to recognize when the time is right.