Soother, dummy, binky, dodey, pacifier – call it what you may, it’s that glorious piece of coloured plastic that keeps our tiny humans calm and quiet (well some of the time anyway). People are sure to have an opinion on your baby’s soother, and when I say people, it’s usually an interfering family member or random elderly lady in the queue in Aldi who feels she needs to give her two cents worth. Some parents swear by them, others never warm to them. Regardless as a new parent, hearing everyone’s opinion on soothers is often confusing. You soon come to learn that your shiny new baby will determine whether or not they have much interest in a soother at all. That said, by all means you can be an encouraging force.
From a personal standpoint I am pro soother. I feel they had a place in soothing my babies. I liked the comfort my boys got from one (and my nipples enjoyed a well earned break in the earlier days). When teeth were breaking through, they had a fall or were feeling unwell, the faithful ‘dodey’ brought solace to my boys. I always felt that if there was a choice between a soother and a thumb, I knew the time would come when I could take a soother away. Taking a thumb away seemed an altogether trickier scenario. All good things must come to an end as they say, and knowing the whens, whys and hows, in relation to soother use is important. As a speech and language therapist this is a topic I am well versed in and so here you have it:
When to Stop Using a Soother?
By 6 months, your baby is sucking less and chewing more. Ideally, children shouldn’t be using a soother after 12 months or a bottle with a teet for the same reason.
Why Stop Using a Soother?
- Using a soother and bottles can give your child less opportunity to practice using their lips and tongue for talking.
- Soothers can lead to your child having problems with talking. This may take some time to correct and require speech and language therapy intervention. If your child is learning to speak with a soother in their mouth, their speech sounds can often become distorted as they have do not have full control of the muscles in their mouth used for speech.
- Having a bottle or soother in their mouth can lead to a child not wanting to talk.
- Prolonged bottle/soother use can affect your child’s teeth, causing them to grow out of line. Long term use can affect adult teeth too.
- Soothers can cause mouth breathing in children, which is associated with excess dribbling.
How to Stop Using a Soother?
- The younger you stop your child having a soother the easier it will be for both of you. As a child gets older, they develop more of an emotional attachment to it, making it more difficult to take away.
- Only use soothers at set times e.g. bedtime. Take away once the child is asleep.
- Take your child’s soother out when they are trying to talk or when they are busy playing.
- Once you decide to take away the soother gather up all the soothers in the house and throw them away. This will avoid you or your child finding them in an hour of desperation. In a few days your child will forget about the soother, I know this is hard to believe. Remember that giving in when they cry for it initially will confuse and upset them more.
- For older children, rewards, praise and using a star chart can be really useful tools.
For years I have been giving this advice and information to parents and never really understood the strong emotional attachment little people can develop for their beloved soothers. I dreaded the process of taking it from my eldest son, but in the end, the end of the road for ‘dodey’ was a lot less traumatic than I had envisioned.
All I will say is, ripping off the plaster sooner rather than later is your best bet. Once it’s off don’t go trying to stick it back on! I see the long term implications of soother use daily in work and how it can effect children’s speech. As I say to parents, the sooner you get rid of the soother, the less likely you will be entering into a long term relationship with me or another speech and language therapist!