This article was first published here at familyfriendlyhq.com
When I had my first baby I have to admit I relied on the soother probably more than I should have. I was clueless so I used it to sooth her during the time it took me to figure out what was actually wrong with her. Two weeks into a difficult breastfeeding experience the Nurse advised me to the use the soother so that the baby wasn’t using me to sooth herself. Some investigation of the pros heralded the following answers which included, apart from the obvious calming effect, the use of soothers has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS in babies under 6 months and that sucking, especially for preterm babies, promotes oral muscle development. So while the pros are brilliant and soothers work well where needed, there comes a time when it simply has to go. This throws up two important questions – firstly, when is the best time and second, how do I go about doing it? These two questions are probably best answered when you look at why a child should give up a soother once the first 6 months of life has been survived.
Emily Ahern, a Speech and Language Therapist who runs her own private practice Evolve Therapy in Mallow, Co. Cork, would advise parents to wean a child off their soother between 6 and 18 months. Research would indicate that prolonged soother use can cause dental problems such as an overbite and a higher palette. Whilst no studies currently indicate it can be a cause of delay speech development, it is a common belief that it can have a negative impact on a child’s language development. Prolonged use can interfere with a child’s opportunity to babble and it keeps the tongue in an unnaturally flat position while it’s in its resting position. Use of a soother also increases the likelihood of ear infections especially in children over the age of two.We weaned our lady off hers during the day at 6 months making a soother the reserve of sleeping only. At two and a half, in our sleep deprived state of having a second 6 week old baby, we appealed to our toddler’s empathetic side and convinced her that the soother wanted to go on holidays to Spain. Surprisingly she happily obliged, and went cold turkey on it. It worked thankfully, she never asked for it again only to inquire as to how the soother’s holiday was going. It did mean about two weeks of having to comfort her at night when she’d wake and not locate the soother but with a 6 week old baby we didn’t really know night from day at that stage anyway.
Some tips from the professional on weaning your child off their soother would include;
- The Dummy fairy;
- When getting rid of soother insuring all soothers are definitely disposed of and not one hidden under a couch; and,
- Finding something else that is a self soother for a child.
Either way weaning a child off a soother is going to be challenging but in the long term a couple of days or weeks in an unsettled household is probably cheaper and easier than long-term speech or dental problems.
Second picture from egift.ie