I am a big fan of dummies (pacifiers) – I think they are lifesavers in the early days, especially if your little one is fussy. But in the first two years of life, a dummy habit can become a problem. If you find you are held hostage by the dummy, are up all night to pop it in or can’t understand your toddler’s language, its time to take action:

Waking regularly at night for the dummy to be put back in – This habit classically arises after 5 months of age. If your baby is healthy and his nutrition is good yet he wakes frequently for a dummy to be put back in, it could well be a dummy habit. Do the following:

Day 1-3: During daylight hours place the dummy only in his hand, not his mouth, so he learns to use the dummy independently when he is not too tired and is alert.

Day 4-7: At night place the dummy in his hand whenever he cries and guide his hand to his mouth to put it in, saying “Put your dummy in”

Day 7-10: Throw 6 dummies in the cot and pray he finds one at night. If he battles stand at the door and say “Find your dummy”

Toddlers sucking a dummy perpetually – While dummies are great for little ones, they can hamper speech development in children over 15 months. In addition, later in the toddler years, they are very hard to get rid of if your baby is too dependent on sucking it day and night. So from 15 months dummy sucking should be reserved for sleep time. Pin the dummy to the bed with a dummy clip and let your little one use it to sleep. If he is miserable and needs a little extra comfort, he can hop onto his bed with a book and have a little suck of the dummy before resuming social activities.

Time to say goodbye – There is no right or wrong time to get rid of the dummy. For most little ones the right time is once they understand language well (between 2 and 3 years) and not when there’s an upheaval in his life (such as a new sibling or mom going back to work). When you feel the time is right, prepare him with a story about where the dummy is going – e.g. the baby lambs are crying and need a dummy. Set a date – e.g. when we go to Ouma’s farm for the weekend. Then let him have the control of taking the dummies to the designated place. Then replace the dummies with a comfort reward – eg a new doodoo blanky or a special teddy.