Solutions for babies waking when the dummy falls out

Has your little one become quite attached to their dummy and now needs it to fall asleep day and night? Dummies can be really effective settling tools, but when you have to get up every time it falls out to replace it, everyone’s suddenly getting less sleep, and the dummy is now a source of discomfort.

If you’ve reached this point (of exhaustion!), you might be wondering how you can wean your bub off the dummy, or if there’s an alternative that keeps both you and your baby happy.

Solutions for babies waking when the dummy falls out

Every baby and every family is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach in dealing with this issue. Therefore, you decide which solution suits you the best.

Solution 1: Go ‘cold turkey’

Some parents choose to remove the dummy ‘cold turkey’ (by simply stopping offering them), and this can work well for some newborns and for those who bed-share. However, as they reach around 6 months and older, this could be upsetting for the baby. We want to do this in the least stressful and the kindest way possible, without any tears.

But, just be prepared that the following gentle approaches can take longer, several weeks perhaps, but everyone will be happier in the process.

Solution 2: Create positive sleep associations

The aim of this approach of conditioning the sleep environment is to make it a place of calm and security. Then when your baby wakes, they will feel comforted by the sense that you’re near, rather than seeking out the dummy to soothe them. You could try one or all of the following ideas:

  • Play relaxing music or white noise during the bedtime routine (if you don’t already have one yet, read the value of a baby bedtime routine) and make sure you use it throughout naps and all night.
  • Put your scent on your baby’s cot sheet by wearing it inside your top, particularly during feeds and cuddles. If you breastfeed, you could put a few drops of milk on the sheet at bedtime.
  • Use the calming scent of lavender oil as part of your nightly routine. For babies over 3 months, you could use a few drops of baby-safe, essential (not artificial) oil in their bath, a specially formulated baby massage oil for a nightly massage, or in a diffuser each evening. Speak to your maternal and child health nurse first for advice.

Solution 3: Use other comfort objects

A ‘transitional object’ refers to something that allows your baby to make the transition to being separated from you (you may not have considered it, but sleep is a huge separation). Your bub will sense that they still have a ‘piece’ of you, but first you will need to create an association between you and the object before completely weaning them off the dummy.

Red nose recommends that parents keep soft toys out of their baby’s sleep space under 7 months of age, as they pose the risk of suffocation. At around 8-9 months, you might choose to introduce a comforter, such as a muslin or breathable soft toy that meets strict safety guidelines. However, you will need to condition it to become a comforting object. You do this by using it in your daily activities with your baby, snuggle it between you during feeds, and use it during play and cuddles. Resist washing it for now as the idea is to get your scent on it, and always have a backup or two!

How to slowly wean your baby off the dummy

So, just to recap: for small babies under 7 months, you can only condition their sleep environment (solution 2), and for babies over 7 months of age, you might choose to both condition their environment and a comforter simultaneously (solutions 2 and 3).

Once you’ve used any or both of the above comforting tools for a minimum of three weeks, you might find it easier to gradually withdraw the dummy, by following these strategies:

  1. Start the weaning process with the naps first.
  2. See if you can settle your baby as you normally would, whether it’s cuddling, rocking, or feeding, but without offering the dummy. It might take some extra settling than it usually does, and could possibly disrupt naps at first. If you contact-nap, you might find that this goes quite smoothly as your presence and warmth is usually comforting enough.
  3. If your baby is having trouble settling before naps in the cot/bassinet without the dummy, you might like to try it in the pram, carseat, or baby carrier for a while until they get used to falling asleep without it. Then, you could go back to settling them at home if that’s your preference.
  4. If they won’t settle easily without it, or they become distressed, you could instead try gradually withdrawing the dummy from their mouth as they’re falling asleep. If they wake and are unhappy, just replace it, and try again and again.

We obviously don’t want to cause overtiredness during this process, so it’s just a matter of experimenting to see what works to help your little one get used to napping without it.

Then, once your bub has mastered the dummy-free naps for a minimum of two weeks, you can try the nights. If you’re able to, you might want to sleep beside the cot so that you can put a hand on your bub when they stir before fully waking up, just to reassure them and help them connect their sleep cycles.

Solution 4: Keep the dummy

So, they are your options when it comes to weaning your baby off the dummy. The other option is to keep the dummy, but there is good news if you think you’re going to be getting up every single time it falls out for the next few years.

By around 7-8 months, most babies can start to put their own dummy in. So, instead of popping the dummy back into your little one’s mouth when it falls out, you can teach them to do it independently by placing it into their hand, and guiding it to their mouth every time until they get the hang of it.

Again, you might want to put the cot beside your bed if it isn’t already, or make up a bed next to theirs so that you can be there to respond before they fully wake up. Put several dummies in the cot (glow-in-the-dark soothers are great) because they’re destined to fall out!

Conclusion

So, it’s either a slow and gentle weaning of the dummy, or wait until they can put it in their mouth independently. That choice is yours, but understand that it will take some time either way. You will get there, so be patient and kind to yourself. Lots of deep breaths, settle in for a few bumpy weeks, and give your baby lots of reassurance and cuddles.

 

If you have a sleep question or would like to book a consultation with our resident holistic infant sleep and wellbeing specialistKara Wilson, please email her at [email protected]. Her approach is an alternative to sleep training that values the relationships and-long term health of the family.

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