I have had a run lately on babies that are addicted to using the dummy to go to sleep and to go back to sleep when they wake overnight.
The dummy can be a great tool when a baby is really young – say from about 2 weeks. It is great to help a baby settle well after a feed and to go back to sleep if they are a catnapper during the day.
When a baby is young the baby uses the dummy to calm themselves down enough to be able to go off to sleep. Then once they are really asleep they spit the dummy out and continue to sleep on.
However around four or five months of age this all changes and the baby becomes dependent on the dummy and the sucking to help them stay asleep as they transition between sleep cycles.
If they come out of a cycle and the dummy is not in their mouth they will cry as they now feel they need the dummy, and really the sucking, to go back to sleep. Mark was nine months and waking up to eight times a night. His exhausted parents were getting up to put the dummy back in his mouth at most of these wake times but once a night they werefeeding him but he was never really interested in the milk only taking enough to just get himself back to sleep.
The day sleeps were not so good either with Mark really only sleeping 45 minutes at each sleep.
When I visited Mark and his parents everyone was a bit anxious and everyone was a lot sleep deprived. When I put Mark down at 7pm he was confused as he didn’t get his dummy and so heexpressed this by crying. I stayed with him the whole time and it took about 20 minutes to get him off to sleep – the first time he had ever gone to sleep without the dummy.
Surprisingly he then slept for longer than he had ever slept before without waking – four hours! After this long sleep he had plenty of energy and so getting him back to sleep this time took a bit longer.
He really wanted that dummy and made sucking noises with his lips like he was trying to suck something. Every now and then he would calm and almost be asleep, at this time he would attempt to suck and realise there was no dummy. He wasn’t happy about that so he continued to cry.
It took some doing but after about 90 minutes Mark finally and calmly went back to sleep. He then slept till about 4am, took 10 minutes to settle and was up for the day at 6.45am. His mum told me when I got back there the following night that his day sleeps had been great and he had slept longer than one sleep cycle for each sleep. Although it had taken a bit longer for him to go off to sleep initially, once he was asleep, he slept soundly.
The second night was much better, he woke a couple more times than the first night but settled each time in less than 10 minutes.
The third night he slept through.
His parents couldn’t believe how quickly he got over the dummy and the night feeding. He hasn’t looked back and has slept well, both day and night since.