You will know when the time is right to begin to reduce and end soother use. Try one or a combination of the following ideas to find a solution that fits you and your child best
1) Little steps
This method gradually decreases the use of a soother over time. Start by limiting the amount of soothers in the house. Then, make sure they are only used at home and not on outings. Next, keep it just for nap or bed time. This can be done over several weeks. This is ideal if you are in no hurry and you want to take things slowly with a child who is sensitive. You might want to try this alongside reading a popular story about giving up the soother like "The Last Noo Noo" or "No More Dummy for Piggy". Your child may even lead the way!
2) Another comfort
When your little one needs their soother, try distraction. This can be with comforting activities like a cuddle, songs or stories or with exciting activities like drama, or a favourite game. Alongside this, replace the soother by giving your child their favourite blanket or teddy. If you try this at bedtime, be prepared that it may take your little one a bit more time to settle. But don’t worry, they will soon adjust.
3) Quick and cheerful
This method is like whipping off a sticking plaster…why hang about? Your child could take a few days to adjust or they could be just fine. Significant events are great for this overnight approach; for example, a birthday signifies being more grown up and may be perfect for saying good bye to a soother. If you go for this approach, make sure there are no other big changes happening such as moving house or a new baby. Once decided, make sure you get rid of every single soother so you are not tempted to give in to your little one if they have a wobble.
4) Create a story
Stories like The Tale of Nutty, Nity and Nelly are ideal for tapping into your child’s imagination and creativity. Your child can help create a box or bag for the soothers to be put into. Any other mythical figure can be used and incorporated into a story involving leaving a soother. For example, your child can help hang them on a tree or put them in a special place for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or any other mythical figure. An exciting part for your child can be when a present is left for them by the character. This could be a surprise - something you know they will love.
5) Good child
A popular and self-esteem boosting method is to engage your child in kindly posting the soothers to "another baby" or Nelly in The Tale of Nutty, Nity and Nelly, who needs them (the addressee may be a friend of yours). The process of preparing, addressing and posting the soothers is a lovely opportunity for your child to "help" someone else. Alternatively, engage your child as an eco-warrior by sending soothers to be recycled. They could even receive a letter back to them with a little gift or stickers, thanking them for their bravery and kindness.
6) Structure and reward
A ladder or star chart is a highly effective way of motivating, supporting and praising your child in making a change. Let each sticker signify a small step in the journey such as 2 hours without the soother or a visit to nursery without the soother. At each sticker tell your child with words, smiles and hugs that they are doing so well and being very clever and grown up. When they have got a day worth of stickers, give a small reward such as a new book, favourite TV programme, or a trip out. They will grow in confidence with each step.
Dr Kerry Taylor, Parent Infant Clinical Psychologist