• jacquelinekirk

Ditching the Dummy....or in our case fingers!

I can’t tell you how many pictures we have like this….. awake, asleep, in the car, in bed, one or both of them…. but the theme is that my children were invariably sucking their fingers.

For most babies, dummies are the more common option and looking back I wish that we had made the swap…. because at least you can actually ditch the dummy. When we first saw the fingers creeping into their little mouths as newborns I seem to remember our response was ‘Yay’ as it meant that they were about to go to sleep. They’ll grow out of it we thought….

Whether its dummies, fingers or thumbs … its not all bad. In the early days, the sucking (which mimics suckling) is a source of comfort and it can really help them settle to sleep. Dummies have also been shown to reduce SIDS. For many, dummy use or finger sucking can fall away naturally as they get older, but for some it can become a reliance or crutch for getting to sleep.

Sometimes this need not be a problem, especially if you can teach your baby to replace their own dummy. For some however, the dummy can create a problem as babies call for mum or dad to replace it when it falls out.

This can be time to think about getting rid of the dummy, or at least start to manage the dummy use.

For instance, some ‘management’ options are :-

- Give the dummy at bedtime/naptime to encourage settling but, once asleep, if it drops out do not replace it. This is not always an appealing option for parents as its removing the quick fix to a wake up… but this way they are learning a way to go to sleep without it, sometimes at least, so its worth facing the fear.

- Encourage your baby to be in control of picking up his own dummy. This needs a pincer movement so typically can be around 9 months onwards, and having several dummies in the cot can really increase the chances of finding one. (Initially they will need help… putting the dummy into their hands, or showing them where it is until they can find it themselves)

However, there finally comes a point when most parents decide it's time for the dummy to go once and for all. There are no real benefits to having a dummy beyond 6-12 months old and for some it may slow down an interest in talking, and become a problem with regard to sleeping if it is a reliance.


Face the fear and you’ll probably find that it won’t be as bad you think and actually, their sleep may well improve as a big disturbing factor has been removed.

If your child is old enough to understand a basic story (and even if they are not, because they will still pick up on a lot more than you realise) it can be a nice idea to make up a little story about why all the dummies are going to go, or have gone, and why they won’t be around anymore.

Some examples are :-

The fairies have to take them to all the new babies that are being bornSanta or the Easter bunny will swap them for gifts/eggs if you leave them out for them to take away· "You’re so clever that you don’t need them anymore so they have gone to the little babies who need them now.” (avoid ‘grown up’ because not all children are happy about being grown up and want to still be your baby- which of course they are)

You can have fun trying to create a scenario that appeals to your child and will encourage them to get on board.

Gestures such as throwing them in the bin can be a bit dramatic and sad for them, so just make them all disappear and then tell the child calmly and reassuringly the story that you think will help.

It can be a nice idea to have a gift or reward for your child when you break the news for being so brave about it.

It may take a few days for your child to adjust but they will get there in their own time, and this is likely to be longer the older they are and the more engrained the habit.

But once you have done it, stick to it…. otherwise it makes twice as hard next time.

For the fellow finger-sucking parents its less good news as you can’t ditch the fingers!

We are a few years on now and at age 4 and 6 we have been given a stern warning by the dentist to get the habit stopped, and she suggested putting plasters on their fingers. Given that we had tried every other obvious method, and failed, we (well, maybe just me to be honest) were keen to give it a go.

I'm pleased to report so far so good.…sort of ! Given that this was a well engrained habit it had an immediate impact on bedtime as it was still their settling mechanism. The 4 yr old, a naturally better sleeper, fully recovered within about a week, but at 6 yrs old, it’s been a hard habit to break for my eldest. Bedtime took a real hit but every night it just got a little better every night and after about 4 weeks we were back to normal times and settling happily without fingers.

So take heart….I thought it would never happen, BUT, it can be done.

So long suckers ...!


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