The Dummy Dilemma
22 June 2021
You’ve tried to get rid of it, you’ve hidden it, you’ve pretended you don’t know where it is and somehow more keep materialising in the house, car, bed or couch!
Why Do I Love Soothing Objects?
I am a big advocate of a comfort toy, blankie or binky; and dummy’s – these security objects are incredibly soothing and comforting, and provide an emotional connection between you and them, a space-filler when we can’t be everywhere, all of the time – they are such a healthy connection. They soothe, emotionally regulate and provide security and comfort as they begin to learn how to regulate and centre their emotions. These connections have no age limit for me, let them pour their love, tears, gob, and snot into these objects (tip: buy a few replicas as a safety net if they get lost!). Take them everywhere, tuck them in with your tiny tots and appreciate their special place in their tiny hearts and the comfort these (smelly) and precious objects provide!
However, there is a time limit on dummy’s, as they impede language development (specifically pronunciation – they tend to move the dummy to the side of their mouth while talking), opportunities to express and utilise speech, and can be socially regressing (baby mindset), as well as not being great on teeth setting and development.
How Do We Transition Them Out Of Their Dummy Dependence?
- Before beginning this process, always remember how much their dummy means to them and how much it symbolises. It has probably been with them since they were born, helping them seek comfort, security, and peaceful sleep. This is incredibly hard for them.
- Be aware of timing – big change or stress in their life is definitely not a good time to transition it out.
- Start limiting their use of the dummy to time or place – the car or cot or at night-time only, this lets them begin to wrap their head around being without it.
- Before going cold turkey, start introducing something that can be their new calm, a blankie or stuffed animal, to coincide with their dummy time (let them use them at the same time). Importantly, let them be a part of this process – let them choose what this new object is.
- Recognise, respect, and hear out all their (tough) emotions and anxiety around this separation. Acknowledge how hard this is for them.
What Steps Do We Take?
- Slowly start using the new comfort toy more and more, over the dummy, increasing the breaks between using their dummy for comfort. Aim to get to the point where they are only using it at bedtime.
- Consistently thank the dummy for supporting your tiny tot, do this verbally together.
- Let them know we are saying goodbye to the dummy soon, prepare them for the goodbye, explain that they have a new special item to keep them safe and secure. When they ask why explain how we need to focus on their talking and playing, and we can’t do that with our dummy.
- You will need a meaningful goodbye to indicate the clear-cut end when it comes to this point. It can be a fairy tale – The Christmas Fairy is coming to fetch it (don’t tell them it is going to another child who needs it, that will only add to their anxiety and making it feel like an unfair process) or it can be a physical goodbye – a dummy farewell party with the family!
Ultimately this is your decision, when and how, don’t put too much pressure on yourself or them to rush into this, as once you start this process you need to commit to it and can’t go back on using it! You know your tiny tot best, do what feels right, and natural, and in your own time and pace.
I hope this helps! Remember these are just my own thoughts, learnings, understanding, and practical tips I apply and feel work best, everyone is different, and you need to do what is right for you and your tot.
Teacher Amy! x
Amy Stevens, more affectionately known as Teacher Amy is a qualified foundation phase and early childhood development teacher. Her mornings involve running a private play school in Sea Point, Cape Town and in the afternoons she offers in-home learning support sessions for children between the ages of 1.5 to 8 years old.