For many tired parents, a dummy is a blessing - a way of comforting a baby that won't settle, or a useful tool for toddlers to comfort themselves in new and unfamiliar situations. But there comes a time in all children's lives when it's time to let the dummy go.
When should we do it?
The recommended age for giving up the dummy varies - some experts recommend weaning a baby off it before they turn one, and doctors say that there might be an increased risk of ear infections for toddlers using a dummy.
Most dentists say to limit the use when your child turns two, and to stop using a dummy altogether before they turn four to avoid dental problems. Early years experts warn that excessive use of a dummy might slow down a child's language development, as having an object in their mouth makes it harder to practice talking.
If your child's dummy is not causing any problems, you can try and wait until they lose interest in it themselves. However if you're worried that your child's teeth or speech are becoming affected by their constant use of a dummy, it's time to start making a change.
As a parent, you will know which approach will suit your child the best - whether they need a longer transition period, or if it's better to remove their dummy quickly. If you're unsure of how start, we've put together some ideas from other parents to help.
Six ways to give up the dummy
1. Do it gradually
This is the preferred method for many parents, especially if they feel that their child might not be ready to lose their dummy overnight, but that they will get used to the idea if given some time. Gradually cut down on the amount of time your child has access to their dummy, and take it away as soon as they are not using it.
Don't give your child a dummy unless they specifically ask for it. Make sure it's hidden - they are less likely to want it if they can't see it. Save the dummy for times that they really need it, like when they are going to sleep. When it's time to stop using it during the night, try incorporating something else into the bedtime routine, such as switching on a nightlight to compensate for the loss of the dummy.
2. Talk it over
One of the reasons many doctors recommend taking away the dummy while children are still very young is that they will be less attached, and less likely to protest. On the other hand, with older children you can have a conversation explaining that dummies are for babies and toddlers, and that they are now big enough to manage without a dummy. If you involve your child and help them think that it's their own decision to ditch the dummy, they are more likely to stick to it.
3. Read about it
As with many developmental milestones, you might find it helpful to read a book about it with your child, stories help children understand and learn new things. It could also help you talk to your child about why it's time to stop using a dummy.
'I Want My Dummy,' (by Tony Ross) 'Ben Gives Up His Dummy' (by Jenny Album) and 'Florrie the Dummy Fairy' (by Anthony J. Crosbie and Rosemarie Gillen) are three books you can try to get started.
4. Give it away
After having a talk with their children, many parents look for a creative or symbolic way to part with the dummy for the last time. Some parents explain to their children that as dummies are for babies, why not give them to some babies that might not have any? Some families bring the dummies to the doctor's office to be "distributed" to babies that don't have any.
Other families send their dummies to Santa, so that he can give them to someone else, or trade them in for big children's toys. Some children also leave it for the "dummy fairy" to take away during the night, maybe leaving a small toy in its place.
5. "Lose" it
All parents of dummy-using children know how quickly dummies get lost - simply resolve not to buy any new ones, and count down as they go missing. If your child asks where the dummy is, explain that it's been lost. After a while they will realise they don't need it, and get used to it.
6. Be creative
For parents and children who prefer a more creative way of giving up the dummy than just giving it away, there's a multitude of inspiration to be found online. One mum even tied her daughter's dummy to a helium balloon, encouraging her to let it go and let it fly away.