When should my child stop using a dummy?

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Frankie Bridge and her son Parker
Dummies bring comfort and security to thousands of babies and young children, yet so many people are against them. But why?

Even celebrities such as David Beckham haven't been able to escape the dummy debate. He was criticised by a MailOnline journalist recently after his four-year-old daughter, Harper, was pictured using a dummy.

The dad-of-four replied to the critics on his Instagram page, saying:

'Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren't feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it's a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people's children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent...'

The story sparked huge debate amongst parents, and even Saturdays singer and mum-of-two Frankie Bridge spoke out in the Beckham's defense.

'If I ever put a picture of Parker up on Instagram with him using a dummy, there's always someone who comments on the fact he has one,' Frankie wrote in her OK! column that week.

'David said no one has the right to criticise him as a parent and I think he's right. It's their fourth child, so they know what they're doing.'

So when SHOULD a child stop using a dummy?

We've outlined the facts - and the fiction - about dummies here so that you can make up your own mind. And if your little one is still reluctant to give up their dummy, isn't it rather comforting to know, you're not the only one!

The good news about dummies

Give a crying baby a dummy and watch what happens. The screaming stops, the baby sucks frantically, calms down and often nods off to sleep. To a sleep-deprived parent this can seem nothing short of a miracle.

1. Young babies have a strong sucking reflex

And love using it, that's why they're so fond of dummies.

2. A dummy can help your baby get to sleep and stay asleep

If they wake briefly, sucking their dummy will often get them back to sleep - without you having to wake up and console them.

3. Dummies give you a break from feeding

Many babies want to keep sucking even when they've had enough milk. Dummies can prevent you over-feeding or having your baby permanently attached to your breast!

WARNING: Sucking on a dummy rather than a breast can mess up the mothers' milk supply in very young babies. For this reason breastfed babies shouldn't be given a dummy until they're at least four weeks old.

4. They can reduce the risk of cot death

According to The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths settling your baby to sleep with a dummy - even for naps - can reduce the risk of cot death, even if it falls out while they're asleep, For more information go to

5. Your child is less likely to become a smoker

Research states that adults who had dummies as babies are less likely to take up smoking.

Not all babies like dummies though. If they don't take to it straight away, don't force it on them. It won't work.

According to research, adults who had dummies as babies are less likely to take up smoking


When should the dummy go?

Experts are divided on this. Here's what they say:

6 months

Some experts argue that if you get rid of the dummy at around six months your baby will adapt extremely quickly. This is because young babies have no long term memory and will quickly forget they ever had a dummy.

12-18 months

At this age, your toddler should be babbling happily. However, if they've got a dummy in their mouth all day they may not bother. This means their speech could be delayed. So if your baby is still really attached to their dummy, try weaning them off, especially during the day.

If you think now is the time to get rid of it, they won't be too happy about it and you may have a few bad nights, especially if they normally use the dummy to get off to sleep.

Age 3

Their teeth may begin to suffer if they're still using a dummy for long periods of time. Excessive use of a dummy at this age may push your child's upper teeth forward and cause dental problems which will have to be rectified later. Expert opinion is divided on this and some children do seem more prone to problems than others. Thumb sucking is still considered by many to be more hazardous to teeth than dummies, especially if you stick to the orthodontic shaped ones.

WARNING: Dipping a dummy in sugary food is asking for trouble. Don't EVER do it. It will definitely rot your child's teeth.

At this age, they're a dummy addict and may need some persuading to give it up. So be clever. 'Dummies are for 'babies' and you're a big boy/girl now, aren't you?' often does the trick. Or you could try persuading them to throw it in the bin just before their birthday or Christmas and tell them they'll get an 'extra' present if they does. But be prepared for tears afterwards, when your child realises exactly what they've done!

4-8 years

Some children are more prone to dummy addiction than others. If your child is over four and still refusing to part with it, don't worry. You're not alone. We've all heard stories about children taking four or five dummies to bed with them and parents being forced to stockpile a favourite design 'just in case' he loses it. But even the most determined dummy sucker will have given up by the age of 8. We promise!


Did you know some children can be more prone to dummy addiction than others? Some have been known to take four or five dummies to bed with them!

How to get the most serious dummy addict to give up

1. Get your dentist to help Take your child for a check-up and ask the dentist explain to them how they could get Bugs Bunny teeth if they don't give up the dummy. Your child has probably heard you moaning about the dummy for ages and won't take anything you say about it seriously. So there's more chance they'll believe the dentist than you.

2. Set a date Be sensible Pick a quiet weekend when it doesn't matter too much if you have a few broken nights sleep. And make sure the time is right for your child too. Don't even think about taking the dummy away if they're currently going through a difficult time. For example, if you've just had a baby, moved house, gone back to work, or your child's been recently ill. These are not good times to take away your child's comforter.

3. Replace it If they're worried about going to bed without the dummy, give them something to cheer them up. A special teddy to cuddle or a new duvet cover can make bedtime more attractive.

4. Bribe and praise If your child can get through one night without a dummy, tell them they can have a small present the next day. When this happens, praise them continually and build their confidence, tell them how clever they are and how proud you are of them.

Continued below...

Do not back down. If your child manages one night dummy-free they can manage the next, and the next. So do not give in if they suddenly decides they want the dummy back. If you do, they'll lose confidence in his ability to do without it - and so will you.

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I was lucky enough not to have this "problem" with my daughter, as she had a dummy for around 3 weeks, tossed across the bedroom one day, and discovered her Thumb!! She still, at the age of 8 sucks it when she's in bed and tired, but it slides out and that's her - gone! But I feel I can't really say too much about that because I myself was born sucking my Thumb, and shamefully - I still sometimes do it when I'm tired! (Choosing not to reveal my age) but I did see Jo Frost aka Supernanny doing a brilliant trick with kids who didn't want to give up their dummies - which was to tell the child the "fairies" (for a girl) or "pirates" (for a boy) or whatever their into wanted their dummies in order to carry out their special mission, they had to take the dummies, place them in a delivery envelope, pop them in the post box (decorated to make it fun!) And the next morning when they woke up, the fairies / pirates would have left them a special present - a new toy / game / teddy etc as a thank you - sort of like the tooth fairy idea, the children were over the moon! So I would recommend that to any parent having trouble!!

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