Question: Hi, I have a six month old boy who is happy, well rested and eating well. From a very early age I have been training him to settle on his own, without my help. He sleeps in his own room in a cot and has done since he was 3 months old. He settles well at night and I am reluctant to go into him in the night, rather leaving him to self-settle. This has led to him being a good sleeper....but all this is only with the help of a dummy.
Generally I have to go in in the early morning (4-6am) to feed him and other than this he usually doesn't need attention or does only once. He has a dummy and a muslin at bedtime and nap-times. The muslin is also used at nursing and bottle-feeding and general cuddle times so that he associates it with comforting, cuddly times. We have a fixed bedtime routine, which I have used since he was a few weeks old and after a bath, massage and bottle he goes down. He is usually in bed by 6.30 and asleep by 7pm. Now, if I try without the dummy, he cries. I don't mind letting him cry down for 10 minutes but if I go back in to settle him, it just aggravates him until I give him the dummy again. He doesn't find me or my voice soothing, he just wants to suck! I have tried to use the dummy to settle him and then take it away as he's drifting off but this leads to him winding up to crying again. I leave him again for 10 minutes then try settling and removing it again and this can go on for 45 minutes until I decide that it's better that he gets a good night's sleep than he sleeps without a dummy. If I felt we needed to get him off the dummy because he was waking every sleep cycle for me to replace it then I would be weaning him off it and allowing him to cry down, but our night time routine is very manageable at the moment.
He has a morning nap, a lunchtime nap and an early evening nap. All of which last for between 45 minutes and 1.5hours.
He can fall asleep without a dummy. I don't need to replace it every time he comes into a light sleep at night time, he settles himself then. He also settles to sleep at nap times without a dummy if he's in the pushchair or in the car....
My question is this: is it better for me to try to wean him off the dummy now or is it more important that he sleeps well at night and at nap times? and should I just stop worrying about the dummy and just be grateful that he sleeps well with it?! I know how lucky I am that he sleeps so well, but I am concerned about his reliance on the dummy.....
Thanks for your help
Heidi's Answer: Hi there, First of all allow me to rave about how well your son is sleeping and how nicely you have set up all the right routines and habits!
I especially like the part where you use the muslin at the comforting cuddly times as a positive association, that is really very good, well done.
All of that not to say your concern about the dummy is not valid of course. Indeed many parents with dummy-sleepers often find themselves going in several times a night to put the dummy back in.
But at your son's age, and with the wonderful sleeping situation you are having ... I don't advise you to wean from the dummy now. You'll put at risk his positive associations, his good sleeping and self soothing skills, his well-suiting schedule, ...
To answer your questions: yes, right now, it is most important that he sleeps well at night and at naps. And yes I do think you can stop worrying about the dummy.
For now, I advise you to keep the dummy as you did so far. But all the while, keep the weaning in the back of your mind:
- At times when you think or feel he'll settle without the dummy - like at the naps you mention or when on the move - do that.
- Every once in a while, say every two weeks or so, have another go at putting him down at night without the dummy, you never know. It might work once, and then not at all the next night ... But when it doesn't work, just give him the dummy. The goal is only to try it from time to time, but without risking his being upset or losing sleep over it.
- Play "dummy games" to teach him how to put it in himself, that will be an important motor skill to have once it does start falling out at night (but it might not at all, some babies are just really good at keeping it in all night).
- If some day it does start falling out you can then make sure it is never far from his reach: tie it to his PJs or sleeping bag with a short (! so it cannot entangle him !!!) ribbon or use a Sleepytot type of solution.