In my experience, babies and children will use one of two sources of comfort. They will either discover the thumb or take to the dummy. Of course, not all children will take to one of these but many do.
I had one of each and there have been benefits and drawbacks to both, but ultimately, I had little say in the matter.
Frida refused dummies from very early on. I have no idea why she hated them so much, I tried every brand available in a desperate attempt to keep her happy in the car, pram, bed and everywhere else. Frida was a very difficult baby in the early days. She had silent reflux and so, as a result she screamed blue murder every time she was put in the car or the pram or in the baby bjorn. It was absolute torture and brought me to tears on several occasions. So, I would unsuccessfully try and shove a dummy in her mouth to try and soothe her but it would always be spat out immediately.
Then, one day a wonderful thing happened. Frida found her thumb! God it was good. She was around four months old, and she would have that thumb in her mouth constantly. Using the thumb meant she always had her comfort source on hand (scuse the pun) and it never got lost or dumped out of a pram or the cot.
Fast forward a couple of years and little Pip came along. Pip was my second child so I was prepared this time around. I offered her a dummy very early on and she took to it like a dream. As a result, she lasted longer between feeds and she could comfort suck the dummy while I prepared a bottle or my breast.
I do not advocate for one or the other because both were an absolute bitch to get rid of.
I was never too worried about either of them, but it really stressed other people out. Everyone had an opinion, strangers, family members, teachers. Comments generally centred around the terrifying prospect of needing braces later in life or having lasting issues with their speech. I knew they would stop when they felt ready but I did feel a bit of pressure, particularly with the dummy. I did try and take it away a couple of times but Pip would just start sucking her thumb or fingers so I decided to allow the dummy as it would hopefully be easier to lose later on.
As it turns out, Frida only gave up the thumb sucking at age seven. She was no longer sucking it in public, but whenever she was tired or unwell, she would use it as comfort. She made the decision to stop by herself and did it with only a little disruption when she felt ready.
Pip took a little more encouraging to let go of her beloved dummy. She loved that thing, and it was only when she turned six that we removed it completely. She wanted to do it, tried a few times but became so inconsolable that I didn’t have the heart to force it. She started to become embarrassed by it, she worried about sleepovers or friends knowing about it. So, we had to help her along a little. I wanted her to be finished with it before her adult teeth came in and so we started talking about how she would give it up at age six.
Just a note here about all the offers of ideas like the dummy fairy or giving the dummy to Santa etc. That did not go down well for Pip, and I didn’t want poor Santa to end up being the bad guy who takes dummies.
So, the night after she turned six, we took her dummy. It was a little rough, she ended up crying herself to sleep, but night two was better and then that was it. We had told her that if she had five nights in a row without it, she could go to Smiggle and choose anything she wanted. It worked and after five nights and a shopping trip, she never asked for it again.
As a parent, trust your gut on decisions like these. Everyone will have an opinion but you know your child. Ultimately I knew Frida would have to make the choice herself. She is extremely strong willed and stubborn so no amount of bribery, forcing or encouraging from us would have worked. The bonus of her strong will though, was that when she decided to do it, she did it. No turning back. I just had to wait for it to be her choice.
With Pip, I knew she would need a little extra help. She just didnt have the confidence to follow through by herself but I knew she was ready.
Trust your instinct and above all else, don’t stress. Have faith in your child to do things in their own time. It will make the process so much easier for them and for you.