When is the Right Time to Ditch the Dummy?

When is the Right Time to Ditch the Dummy?... And How?!

We've been long since procrastinating over when and how to approach the topic of ditching the dummy, and to be honest, it has never seemed like the right time. When he was little, he needed it for sleep, and naps, and as he's grown older, he's needed it for, well, sleep and naps. And we've needed our sleep and naps (kidding, who gets naps?!) and quite frankly, the thought of disrupting a happy sleeping household for such a life-changing event was something we had both decided to put off. And off.

We weren't even too bothered about taking the dummy away. Billy only used his at night, so it's not as though it was glued to his face permanently. And so, imagine our surprise and panic during our August trip to the dentist, when we were told quite sternly, "Now is the time to get rid of the dummy. He's 3, the damage to his teeth will be permanent if you don't ditch the dummy now."

To be perfectly honest, I'd heard friends talking about dummy teeth, but I'd never really assumed Billy had them, but then again, I've not known what his teeth might look like without the effects of a dummy, seeing as he'd been relying on once since his delicate newborn days. I began to look closer, oh and I Googled! 'What do dummy teeth look like?' Well, if you're curious, there are some serious dummy teeth online, and I'll be honest, they ain't pretty.

And so that was it. The pressure was on. We had to formulate a plan. But how? He's three, and about to start playschool so it seemed cruel to take away his comfort and crux at the same time he embarked on such a momentous event.

We began broaching the subject of the dummy fairy with him in an easy breezy way, and I can confirm that his immediate response may as well have been "I give no sh*ts about the dummy fairy." Confirming that, "I don't want a prize, I just want my dummies."

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That was the dummy fairy shot down in flames...

Could we go cold turkey and just bin them with no explanation? Too cruel. I started kicking myself we hadn't gotten rid when he was too young to understand where they'd gone. Would that have been easier than this? I pondered. Hmm...

A few weeks went by, and I kept bringing it up every now and then in an attempt to slowly prepare him. We began to be even stricter about his dummy use: they were only allowed on his bed, not downstairs, and to be fair, he happily obliged to this rule, putting them under his pillow each morning for safe keeping. I'd ask him to take the dummy out of his mouth when he was talking, "We don't speak with dummies in, do we?" Gentle ways to infiltrate his psyche that his best night time friend maybe, just maybe, wasn't such a great pal after all.

And then one day, last weekend, we were walking in the high street, and he came across a person with severely protruding teeth. Thankfully he waited until they were out of earshot to exclaim, "Mummy! That person has BIG teeth!!"

To which I replied, "I know Billy, and do you know why?"

"WHY?" He questioned, eyes wide open, hanging on my every word.

"Because they probably suck a dummy, or maybe even their thumb, and doing that makes your teeth stick out after a while."

"OH NO! he whispered, clearly deep in thought.

And that was it. Realisation hit. He'd made up his mind.

"I don't want dummies anymore. I'm a big boy, and I want good teeth." High five moment.

Dummies be gone! We got home later that day, and, after checking a couple of times that he was still sure, (he was) we wrapped them in a bag, and he stuck the bag down with brown tape and put it next to his pillow for the Dummy Fairy.

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The dummy fairy came that night (luckily, I had guessed that this pivotal moment would be an opportune one, so I'd already prepared) and left Billy a letter, telling him what a big boy he was, and a whole host of Marvel goodies, which was actually really good of her, as he needed some new jumpers, slippers and gloves. Two birds, one stone.

And he's not looked back

It's been a week tomorrow since he ditched the dummies, and he's so proud of himself. He's slept well, he hasn't asked for them once, and so far, we've managed to avoid those meltdown situations in which he cries for his dummy. I cannot believe how easy it has been.

I confess I felt absolutely terrible taking his dummies away and cajoling him into doing it. When he was a newborn, he nearly died of a UTI and a staph infection, so together, we both spent two long weeks in a room together on the children's ward, while he endured lumbar punctures, cannulas and the beginning of months of antibiotics. The nights were hard, lonely and long. Breastfeeding almost 24/7 due to reflux and tongue tie while feeling like I was going out of my tree, I'd reach for the dummy, pop it in his mouth, and thank the gods as he gratefully took it, allowing himself to settle and sleep. It was our absolute saviour. That dummy was my wingman when my husband couldn't be with us to take some of the strain and I probably would have gone a bit mad without it.

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A dummy is actually beneficial for new babies

According to The Lullaby Trust, a dummy is thought to reduce the risk of SIDs, it counteracts mouth breathing, stops thumb sucking and helps with colic and reflux symptoms. Amen! So don't beat yourself up for using a dummy. They're a great tool for a happy, sleeping, healthy baby.

But as they grow older, it's worth having a plan for ditching the dummy, because it can be an emotional time for you and your little one. While I knew it was for his own good, knowing what the dummy represented to him did play on my heartstrings. It was his way of coping with life on his own in his own room, his comfort and reassurance, his tool for sleep... solace in the dark, calm in a storm... But I needn't have worried too much.

I underestimated him. He smashed it. And the takeaway is: if you're out there wondering when the right time is, maybe a little earlier than three, but if you're here in my shoes right now, go easy, don't rush it, plant the seed in their minds and make it their decision. They will get there. And if you do decide to take it away, stand by your guns. Be positive, give so much praise. Whatever you do, don't cave in. I promise, it will all be fine.

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