Your child's dummy or pacifier has been something of a lifesaver. It's helped soothe, settle and comfort them through many weeks of babyhood – and, evidence seems to suggest, helped keep them sleeping safely. But there comes a time when its benefits start to be outweighed by potential problems – see Here's why your child should ditch the dummy, below.


But how on earth do you persuade your child to give up their dummy? Isn't it going to be really difficult? Is there a way to do it that doesn't involve tears and tantrums? It all depends a bit on how old your child is at dummy-ditching time (see When is the right age to give up the dummy?, below) and what method you use.

To help you find the right strategy for your child, we've rounded up 8 brilliant ways to give up a dummy, all suitable for different ages and temperaments, and all used and recommended by parents in our MadeForMums Community.

Here's why your child should ditch the dummy

  • It can affect your child's teeth. "Long-term use of a dummy can lead to problems with the structure of the mouth, and with how your child's teeth align when they bite down," says expert dental surgeon Dr Suraj Vatish DDS, based at the London dental clinic American Smile.
  • It can affect your child's speech development. Having a dummy in their mouth can delay a young child babbling and using sounds to communicate. It's also thought – but is only limited scientific evidence – that prolonged daytime use of a dummy can affect a child's ability to develop the full range of speech sounds¹.
  • It can affect your child's sleep. "Prolonged dummy use can mean your child has poor muscle tone in their tongue," says Dr Suraj. "This means the tongue may not be able to assist the correct breathing through the nose, which can result in sleep-disordered breathing or lack of deep sleep."
  • It can increase your child's risk of middle ear infections. Studies have identified the use of a dummy as a risk factor for acute otitis media.²

1. Book a visit from the Dummy Fairy

Works best for age: 2+

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 our eldest. 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!
Chelsea D, MadeForMums Community

The beauty of 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 toddler, 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 their dummy, you can take it more slowly, involving your child in all the Dummy Fairy 'preparations' and so giving them plenty of time to adjust to, and buy into, the whole plan.

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This worked a dream for Eve in our MadeForMums Community: "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, smaller babies who needed them. Then we put the dummies in the box together, and, in the morning, there were toys – and all was well!"

2. Go cold turkey

Works best for age: 6 months+

This is not for everyone (no kidding!). And you'll have to be prepared for the possibility of tears. 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 his dummy off him as soon as his first tooth appeared. I just threw them all in the bin and didn't look back! He was a bit unsettled for 2 days but I just occupied him to keep his mind off wanting his dummy and he was fine
Maria, MadeForMums Community

Sometimes, life just presents a cold-turkey dump-ditching opportunity to you, as Naomi, in our MadeForMums Community, found. "My son threw his dummy over the fence when he was 2," she explains. "He looked at our cat and asked him to 'Fetch it!' When I said cats don't fetch, he was very upset but, after a day or so, he'd totally forgotten about it."

3. Take the dummy to the Fairy Forest

Works best for age: 2+

giving up the dummy certificate

This is a variation on the Dummy Fairy strategy (number 1, above) that has a real magical touch – and also beautifully demonstrates to your child that other children their age are giving up their dummies, too.

Sammi, one of the parents in our MadeFor Mums Community successfully tried this with her daughter Georgia, 3 (pictured above).

"On Friday, we read a book about a girl giving up her dummy,' she says, "and, on Saturday, we went to the Fairy Forest (local woods) and left her dummies for the baby fairies to keep.

The forest had little fairy doors and many other parents had done the same and left their kid's dummies for the baby fairies. Georgia was fascinated
Sammi, MadeForMums Community

"That night, we had a dummy-free night with only one little meltdown and, the next morning, she woke to a present and certificate from the Dummy Fairy. You can see how pleased she was by that!"

4. Take a softly, softly approach

Works best for age: 6 months+

The technique works best, if taken slowly and started quite young – although we've also included a clever variation for older children.

Start by not offering your child the dummy unless they specifically ask 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 nighttime.

And then, when you think the time is right, remove the dummy when it falls out at night, so your child gets used to not having it when they wake up. The next step, of course, is to phase it out completely.

I've just taken my 8-month-old's dummy away during the day. He can have it to go to sleep and that's it. By the time he's 1, the plan is there will be no dummy at all
Kirsty, MadeForMums Community

For an older child, you can adapt the softly, softly technique to ease the transition from dummy to no dummy at bedtime. It all starts with you seeding the idea that each dummy will be thrown away once it's been 'used up' – and then you can start slowly ditching all the dummies in the house.

This is what worked for Louise in our MadeForMums Community. "My little boy had a dummy right up until his 3rd birthday – just at bedtime," she says. "He chewed on them a lot, so I threw them away one by one when they got holes in and he knew he wasn't getting any more. When the last one was broken, he put it in recycling himself, and he's never made a fuss since."

5. 'Lose' it

Works best for age: 18 months+

Ok, so this is a bit sneaky. Think of it as cold turkey (strategy no 2), done a bit more gently.

Once you've 'lost' the dummy, you can involve your child in searching the house to look for it (do 'lose' it somewhere they 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 a 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.

6. Stick a pin in it

Works best for age: 6 months+

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.

Do note that there once was 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.

7. Exchange it for toys/presents

Works best for age: 2+

Of course, there is always out-and-about 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 it can be amazingly effective if you've got the funds. "She gave it up for some Peppa Pig cutlery and a princess dress," says Sharon H in our MadeForMums Community.

And Lyssa in our MadeForMums Community has some tips for making this strategy work smoothly. "We prepped our daughter that, as she was now starting nursery, she had to give up her dummies," she says.

We picked a day, marked it on a calendar she could see and, on that morning, 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 properly
Lyssa, MadeForMums Community

"She was fine all day and that night took Ted to bed for a cuddle instead of her dummy. Result!"

8. Help your child make the decision themselves

Works best for age: 2+

If none of our ideas are floating your boat, maybe this one will do the trick. It's a slow burner, though, so you'll need to be patient and wait for it wot work.

Find a good book about giving up dummies. We recommend I Want My Dummy! by Tony Ross – which you can also watch being read on YouTube – 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 enjoy reading the story through with your child. Don't make any comments; just let the idea ferment...

When is the right age to give up the dummy?

Most experts recommend parents stop giving their child a dummy by the age of 12 months, though the advice does vary and it's not always clear whether that means stopping completely or just stopping daytime use.

The Lullaby Trust suggests stopping giving a dummy for sleeps at between 6 and 12 months (once the safe-sleep benefits are no longer so great), and many NHS speech-and-language therapists³ encourage daytime dummy-ditching by 12 to 18 months. For dental protection, the NHS recommends stopping dummy use by 12 months4.

We know from our parent community that many children continue using a dummy, as a comfort object, into their 2nd year and, as parents ourselves, we do understand how attached a child can become to their dummy. That said, it's definitely worth cutting down dummy use from 12 months on. With one of our 8 strategies above and a good dose of perseverance, you'll soon be able to ditch it for good.


1. 'Does the duration and frequency of dummy (pacifier) use affect the development of speech?' Strutt et al. Int J Lang Commun Disord 2021 May;56(3):512-527. doi: 10.1111/1460-6984.12605. Epub 2021 May 3.
2. 'Is pacifier use a risk factor for acute otitis media? A dynamic cohort study' Rovers et al. Fam Pract. 2008 Aug;25(4):233-6. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmn030. Epub 2008 Jun 17.
3. Babies and Dummies. Let's Talk NHS Lothian; What You Need to Know about Using a Dummy. Bridgewater NHS Community Healthcare; Dummies. NHS Berkshire Healthcare Children Young People and Family Services
4. Looking after your baby's teeth. NHS online.

Pic: Getty Images; MadeForMums Community. Additional research: Janet Mtima

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Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.