My oldest took a dummy beautifully and my youngest wanted nothing to do with it! I had two very different experiences with both of their sleep as a result. When my oldest hit the 4 month sleep regression he started waking every 2 hours needing help to replace the dummy. Thank goodness this stopped after 2 weeks and thereafter he only woke 1-2 times for it to be replaced which was far more manageable than the previously 4+ dummy runs a night. Then once he reached 7 months I started teaching him to replace it and we were done with dummy runs forever. And as a result I never needed to teach him to self-settle. The dummy was his sleep association and didn’t cause any issues (other than the 2 weeks of dummy hell).
This isn’t the case for everyone, read Lucy’s story…
I worked with Lucy and her Mum when Lucy was 4.5 months old. She was waking every 1-2 hours needing her dummy replaced. Before ditching the dummy Mum wanted to optimise and rule out everything first. So we got her on an age appropriate schedule, worked on sleep hygiene and while settling and sleep did improve, her night wakes were still frequent which was preventing her sleep from consolidating. Mum made the call to ditch the dummy. Here’s some screenshots of our conversation around this.
We successfully ditched it while offering her some extra support during the transition and that night she slept the longest stretch she’d done in a long time!
Side note: If you are wanting guidance to teach your little one more independent sleep skills but you want options and solid step-by-step guidance, check out my 3-12 Month Guide which will help you all get more sleep!
Dummies are wonderful settling tools for babies before they hit the 4-month sleep regression! After this, they will wake between partial and/or full sleep cycles (every 2-4 hours) for it to be replaced overnight. For some babies this resolves after a week or two but for others (like you read in Lucy’s story) it can really disrupt sleep for the whole family. Babies can only learn to replace this on their own around 7/8 months so that is a lot of dummy runs until then not to mention lots of broken sleep for you and your little one.
If your little one is waking frequently overnight and you think that the dummy is the issue, preventing him from truly linking cycles, you can get rid of it, offering him some extra hands on support while he adjusts. Or you can keep assisting him to replace the dummy until he can do this independently closer to 8 months. Over 7 months, babies really protest change so if you’re going to get rid of it, any time before 6 months is a good time.
To get rid of it you have 2 options:
Cold turkey – ditch the dummy right away starting with the first nap. Your baby will likely need some extra support during this time with some patting or shushing to calm. Make sure to not assist him fully to sleep during this transition, as you will just be replacing one sleep association with another. If you need help with teaching self-settling or crib sleep, get my guide or book a consult!
If you’re consistent with this method it should take 2-3 days max, a lot of babies accept this change sooner.
Gradual method – layer in some other sleep associations like patting and shushing while he is falling asleep with the pacifier. After 3 days he would have formed an association with the patting and shushing. You will then remove the pacifier and only offer him patting and shushing until asleep. Once he is going to sleep well without the pacifier, you will start to remove the shushing and patting by only using it to calm.
I hope this helps you to make a decision as to whether you should keep or ditch the dummy! Remember, there’s no such thing as a “bad” sleep association/prop/crutch (whatever you want to call it), only an association that is no longer serving you or your baby. Keep doing whatever you’re doing if it’s working for you and your family. I’m here if you need support making changes in a way that feels good for you <3