Do dummies help with sleep?
Every baby is different, some babies fall asleep with a dummy and then sleep well for the rest of their nap/throughout the night. For others, a dummy can become a hindrance to sleep. So, if you find yourself having to reinsert the dummy several times in the night, then it might be time to think about making a change.
Babies naturally wake through the night, in fact even us adults do too, as we navigate our way through different phases of sleep. If they have lost their dummy during these awake moments and need it back to help them fall back to sleep then it is likely that you will need to give it back to them each time this happens throughout the night.
Older babies may be able to find their dummy in the night and pop it back into their own mouth. If you are happy keeping the dummy and they can find and reinsert it themselves then you might want to leave a couple of dummies in their cot for them to make it easier.
If your baby is too young to find their dummy themselves, but you are committed to keeping it, then you might have to ride out some temporary disruption and help them learn to replace the dummy themselves. You can try placing their dummy in their hand, rather than their mouth, and help guide them to put it into their mouth themselves. It will take some time but can be helpful if you want to keep the dummy longer term.
Another option, if you find that your baby’s dummy is disturbing sleep, is to take the plunge and make the decision it is time to stop using it.
How can I stop using the dummy?
You can decide if you want to take a more gradual approach or ‘go cold turkey’. If you want to go gradually, then you could start by limiting use only to sleep times. So, if you’re using it at other times during the day, stop and only offer it at the start of sleep for naps and bedtime. You could start to gently remove the dummy before your little one is fully asleep and gradually use it less and less, or you might stop reinserting the dummy if it falls out.
Some babies take a long time to reduce their reliance on a dummy or can get more upset by taking a gradual approach. In which case, it can be easier for everyone to simply take the cold turkey approach and stop using the dummy altogether.
Bedtime is usually the best time to start as babies can adapt more easily to changes in how they fall asleep then. They are naturally more ready for sleep and you have nature on your side. You can choose an alternative settling method and support them to sleep without their dummy.
It can feel daunting, but you may be surprised at how easily they adapt. You might have a few trickier nights, and then your little one will forget they ever had a dummy.
For toddlers, it’s important to be open and upfront with them about what is happening. It can even be helpful to involve them in the process. One approach you can take is to collect all the dummies in a bag, and then you could 'post' them to the dummy fairy, who will then 'exchange' them for a small toy (a little like the tooth fairy). Involving them in the process and letting them feel part of the decision can help them feel empowered and excited about making the change.
Another approach is to introduce something else to help them move away from that dummy, like a comforter - this could be a small cuddly toy or soft material.
It can be unsettling for babies and children if they aren’t sure of the boundaries or what to expect in different situations, so being consistent is key. If you decide the time is right to ditch the dummy, then try to stick with it and not be tempted to start using them again.