Ditch the dummy! - C&D Independent Speech & Language Therapy
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Ditch the dummy!

The use of dummies is a controversial topic amongst parents and professionals. We understand that for parents it can be extremely distressing to hear their baby upset and many opt for a dummy to soothe and pacify their little one. Some research studies also show a correlation between dummies and good sucking patterns in very young infants. However, there are concerns regarding long-term dummy use and its impact on speech and language development.

It is important to say that not all children who use a dummy will go on to develop speech and language difficulties and many who present with these difficulties have never been exposed to a dummy. However, we do know that dummies restrict the movement of the tongue needed to make speech sounds and children who use a dummy are therefore more likely to struggle with some of these sounds. Children who use a dummy will also have a reduced number of opportunities to babble and imitate sounds; this is an important part of speech development and allows them to practice lots of different sounds before they begin forming words.

As mentioned above we appreciate that dummies have a positive use in very early infancy, however this usefulness declines at around the 6 month mark and we recommend that dummy use should be avoided after 1 year or at least removed during the daytime when your child has the most opportunities to communicate with others.

We know that it can be difficult to remove a dummy if it is something that your child really relies on as comfort so here are a few tips and ideas to help you ditch the dummy:

  • Remove gradually in younger children, for example try removing the dummy when your child is trying to talk
  • It is okay to remove a dummy more quickly in older children if they have the ability to understand the reason you tell them, for example that they don’t need it now they are a big girl/boy
  • Choose the right time and make sure you don’t try to remove a dummy when anything else is going on in your child’s life, for example if you are moving house/having another baby
  • Try cuddling or reading to your child before bedtime instead of giving them a dummy
  • Give your child lots of praise if s/he will give up the dummy
  • Once you have decided to give up the dummy, don’t be tempted to give it back and make sure there are none left around the house as children have an amazing way of finding them again!

Parents who have succeeded in ditching the dummy always tell us how it was much easier than they predicted and that their child soon stopped asking for it after a few days. So keep strong and keep reminding yourself why you are doing it – good luck!

Lizzie Fox
lizzie@cdspeechtherapy.co.uk