Have you decided to drop your little one’s dummy?
Here are our top tips to ensure it’s not such a daunting experience..
Dummies can sometimes be a really helpful soothing tool for many little ones and we’re certainly not averse to using one when required. If your child uses a dummy and they sleep solidly without having to wake to look for it to be replaced both during the day and night, then there is no need to worry about getting rid of it until such a time where it does become problematic, or alternatively, until you all feel it is time.
However, if you’re beginning to notice that your child’s dummy is becoming more of a hindrance then a help, it may be time to start thinking about making some changes and possibly getting rid of the dummy. When little ones are offered their dummy time and time again for sleep, they often become quite reliant on it and forget they have the ability to fall asleep, or fall back to sleep, independently. Consequently, you’ll often see lots of night waking occurring between sleep cycles requiring multiple replacements of the dummy, early morning wake ups and catnapping during the day.
So, if you have decided that now is the right time to remove your little one’s dummy, read on to find out our top tips to make it a smoother ride.
- Be in the right frame of mind. Ensure you feel confident about your decision to improve sleep for your little one - this way, you won’t doubt yourself. Stay focussed, stick to your plan and know deep down that you’re not doing this to be cruel to your child – instead, you are teaching him/her a lifelong skill they will use forever more. The gift of good sleep is immeasurable – for the entire family unit.
- Ensure the room set up is optimal. The room should be pitch black dark - even during the middle of the day. There should be continuous white noise playing for the duration of the night/nap. No mobiles/toys/pillows/blankets should be in or over the cot for safety and distraction reasons. The room should be at an optimal temperature or your child should be dressed appropriately for sleep, according to the temperature of the room.
- Cold turkey is key. A child will not understand why they can have their dummy at some points during the day, but not at others. If you have decided it is time to see the dummy go, physically get rid of them all - completely. For example, don’t give a dummy to your child ‘just’ in the car or ‘just’ to soothe during fussy periods of the day. If it’s going at sleep time, it needs to go at all other times too. This way, there will be less confusion and frustration for your child and the process will be over and done with much quicker.
- Start implementing changes at the beginning of the night. The circadian rhythm and a strong drive for deep sleep at the beginning of the night encourages sleep to occur more naturally then for our little ones. It is far easier to achieve a reasonable settle when making changes to a child’s usual bedtime routine when it happens at the beginning of the night, versus during the day.
- Keep the awake time before bed appropriate. An overtired child will find it very difficult to fall asleep independent of any props/assistance. Therefore, when you decide it’s time to remove your child’s dummy, keep their awake time before bed appropriate to their age and suitability. This way, they won’t begin the whole process of making significant changes one step behind and it won’t be such a difficult time for them.
- Ensure your child goes down for bed wide awake. It’s imperative that your little one stays wide awake during their entire awake periods. This includes during their milk feed if they are still having one. Allowing your child to become drowsy or lulled at any point will take away their appetite for sleep and they will resist bedtime when it is finally offered. The aim of self-settling is that your child learns how to put themselves to sleep from being wide awake, without any assistance from you and without any external measures. Putting your little one down drowsy will not allow them to learn this skill.
- Don’t swap your prop. You will not make any progress in teaching your child how to sleep well if you simply ‘swap your prop’. For example, you don’t want to remove your little one’s dummy but now instead have to stand patting and shushing them or rocking them in your arms to sleep at the start of each night and then throughout the night also when they wake. Keep it clean, remove all props. Put your little one down wide awake.
- Have a solid plan and be mindful you don’t make things worse. There are various methods that you could choose from in terms of how you’d like to teach your baby to sleep independent of their dummy. Whichever path you decide consistency is important. Consistency will help to minimise your baby’s confusion and frustration about the situation. Also bare in mind that sometimes doing too much and trying to fix things too often for your little one often exacerbates their crying as they are so stimulated by your presence. This also doesn’t allow them the opportunity to figure out this skill for themselves. Little ones are much smarter than we often give them credit for. Sometimes they just need space and opportunity to try and sort things out for themselves.
Dropping your child’s dummy can be daunting – we get it! However, if you feel you’re ready to make that change to enable your chid to benefit from improved quality and quantity of sleep – there is no time like the present. Your child and whole family unit will undoubtably be thanking you in no time.
Hoping you found these tips helpful in getting started!
The Gentle Sleep Specialist - xx