Giving up the dummy: 7 ways that really work

Time to ditch the soother habit? These mum-tested strategies should make it easier for your child – and you

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  • Book a visit from the Dummy Fairy

    Yup, the Tooth Fairy has a younger cousin, who's on the hunt for small children's dummies, not milk teeth. And when you leave your dummy out for the Dummy Fairy at night, you'll find it replaced with a toy in the morning!

    "We used the Dummy Fairy with my eldest," posted Chelsea Durham on the MFM Facebook page. "The fairy took it for a new baby and left him a big-boy toy for being so kind. He was excited and chuffed to bits. Never asked for it again."

    The beauty with the Dummy Fairy technique is that you can spend as much time as your child needs building up to the big visit from the small winged one: for a younger child, you may want to introduce the DF idea and then follow through pretty quickly, while the excitement's still fresh; for an older child, who's maybe more determinedly attached to her or his dummy, you can take it more slowly, involving your child in all the Dummy Fairy 'preparations' and so giving him or her plenty of time to adjust to, and buy into, the whole plan.

    As MrsG14 on our Chat forum explains: "We were terrified about taking away my daughter's much-loved dummy. We took a shoebox and spent loads of time decorating it in the build-up to the Dummy Fairy, talking all the time about how the Fairy would be taking the dummies and giving them to other, littler babies who needed them. Then we put the dummies in the box together, and, in the morning, there were toys – and all was well!"

  • Go cold turkey

    This is not for everyone (no kidding!). And you'll have to be prepared for the possibility of tantrums, tears and drama. But there's a lot to be said for grasping the dummy nettle and just going for it. If you can ride out a couple of difficult days – distraction with loads of activities is your friend here –  it can be the quickest strategy of all.

    “I took my children's dummy off them as soon as their first tooth appeared," says Maria Woolley on MFM's Facebook page. "I just threw them in the bin and didn't look back! They were a bit unsettled for 2 days but I just occupied them to keep their mind off wanting their dummy and they were fine!”

    “My son threw his dummy over the fence when he was 2," says Naomi Ullyet, "and asked our cat to 'fetch it'. When I said cats don't fetch he was very upset but after a week he'd totally forgotten about it.“

  • ‘Lose’ it

    Ok, so this is a bit sneaky. Think of it instead as cold turkey, done a bit more gently.

    Once you've 'lost' the dummy, you can involve your child into searching the house to look for it (do 'lose' it somewhere he or she can't actually find it!). It sounds a bit cruel but, actually, you're giving your child time to realise it's gone and understand it's not coming back.

    When, sadly, the dummy is nowhere to be found, offer your child something new to cuddle as substitute. This will help soften the blow, distract from the search and give you a moment or two to find something fun to do that'll keep your child busy and thinking about something else.

  • Take a softly, softly approach

    Start by not offering your child the dummy unless he or she specifically asks for it (make sure you keep it out of sight). From there, you can move to not letting it be used except for nap times and night time. And then, when you think the time is right, remove the dummy when it falls out at night, so your child gets used not having it when he or she wakes up. Next step, of course, is to phase it out completely.

    The technique works best, taken slowly and started quite young. “I've just taken my 8 month old little boy's dummy away during the day," says Kirsty Wade on the MFM Facebook page. "He can have it to go to sleep and that's it. By 1, there will be no dummy at all."

    One of the ways to ease the transition from dummy to no dummy at bedtime is to seed the idea that each dummy will be thrown away one by one. This is what worked for Louise White on our Facebook page: "My little boy had one until his 3rd birthday, just at bedtime. He chewed on them that much, I threw them away one by one when they got holes in and he knew he wasn't getting anymore. When the last one was broken, he put it in recycling himself, and he's never made a fuss since."

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  • Stick a pin in it!

    This is the sabotage approach. You discreetly make a teensy hole in your child's dummy with a pin. The barely visible hole will make the dummy way less effective on the sucking front, meaning your child will lose interest in it. Well, that's the theory, anyway! And, truth be told, it can work well on younger children.

    Be careful that the hole you make is really only a little pinprick; any bigger and you risk the dummy getting a proper hole – and that's not very safe, as small bits could then break off and pose a choking hazard. 

    In fact, there is a 'Bye Bye Binky' technique, much-touted in the US, that's all about slowly snipping off more and more of the teat on your child's dummy, until it's no more than a nib. You'll still find people recommending it but most experts would now agree it's not a safe strategy.

  • Take a trip to the toy shop

    Of course, there is always out and out bribery. We’re not ashamed to say this is a very tempting way to go – especially if your child is a stubborn little mite and isn't one to fall for all the magical stuff with fairies and elves.

    And it's amazingly effective, if you've got the funds! "She gave it up for some Peppa pig cutlery and a princess dress.” says Sharon Hills on our Facebook page.

    On our Chat forum, busymamma had a genius idea: "We prepped our daughter that she was now starting nursery so had to give up her dummies. We picked a day,  marked it on a calendar she could see and, on that morning, we rounded them all up, went to a toy shop, picked a teddy (her choice), and paid with her dummies!

    "My partner stood behind me and. while I distracted her, he paid cash – lol. She was fine all day and that night took diddy Ted to bed for a cuddle instead of her dummy!" Result!

  • Help your child make the decision

    If none of our ideas are floating your boat, maybe this genius picture book will do the trick. I Want My Dummy! by Tony Ross might be just what your litlle girl (or boy) needs to help them part with their dummy – as it's all about a girl who doesn't want to give up her dummy (funny, that!) but eventually decides it's the best thing to do. Just have fun reading it through with your child (it's a funny read). Don't make any comments; just let the idea ferment...

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