Banish that Binky! How to get rid of the soother

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Soothers, pacifiers, dummiesג€¦ no matter what you call them there’s no doubt that these little sucking devices can be a lifesaver for many parents. They’re great for when your little one gets antsy in the bustle of a busy supermarket, when she unexpectedly wakes up from her nap in the middle of a quiet library queue, and when she’s overtired after a long morning at baby group.

However, over dependence on the soother can quickly become a problem. Even ten years after my eldest gave up his dummy, the memories of 45-minute weekly drives back from visiting my parents are still etched in my mind with crystal clarity. For my boy became so dependant on his soother that, for every second it was not in his mouth, he wailed. He howled, he screamed, he screeched ג€“ all the way home. By the time I pulled up to my house, every fibre of my being was howling too, and I would be shaking. It’s not the safest way to drive. Of course I experimented with the various short baby-safe ribbons that clipped the dummy to his clothes, but what use are they when a youngster opens his mouth to yawn and the dummy falls out? He was too young to be coordinated enough to locate the dummy and pop it back in!

So it was fairly clear to me that the soother had to go. And obviously, as a life skill, little humans simply need to learn to calm themselves without something permanently in their mouths. They need to learn how to relax, and they need to learn how to fall asleep, independent of a pacifier. Furthermore, experts claim that on-going use of soothers encourages new teeth to grow outwards and for speech development to be hindered. So how best to drop the dummy?

Every baby is different, but here are some strategies you might like to try:

ג€¢ Do it gradually. For a baby, restrict the time spent sucking on the soother by reducing it a little each day. Start with the times your baby uses a soother during waking hours and over time dispense with that, then get to work on the night time dependency. For an older child, simply stop offering it, and hopefully over time she’ll effectively ג€˜wean’ herself as she finds other things to occupy her and eventually forgets about her habit.

ג€¢ Brazen it out. Take the dummy away for good and prepare to deal with an unhappy baby for a couple of days. It may seem cruel to go cold turkey, but little brains don’t remember much, and after a while they’ll forget it ever existed. Provide plenty of distractions ג€“ fun things to look at, touch and taste (if weaning) ג€“ and lots of cuddles when the sleepiness starts.

ג€¢ For an older child, explain gently that only babies use dummies and that it’s time to say goodbye. For children who are particularly attached to theirs, you could always hold a little ג€˜farewell’ ceremony, where the child is responsible for disposing of the dummy (depending on the degree of attachment, this could either mean a visit to the bin or a burial in the garden), then receives a little gift as a ג€˜well done’ present. Particularly if the gift is a cuddly toy, then this might provide the necessary reassurance when the soother is absent at night.

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