Little Hands SureStart are assisting local mums and dads in getting rid of the dreaded dodo. There is even a song you can sing and Santa is in on the act!

Whether you call it a dummy or a dodo, a dodi or a soother, there is no doubt that for many parents and children alike those little pieces of plastic and silicone can be a lifesaver in the tough early months of parenthood.

In fact some studies even suggest that using a dummy with a young baby at naptime or bedtime can decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death).

Little Hands pre school children taking part in Dump The Dummy.  (DER4913JB120)

Little Hands pre school children taking part in Dump The Dummy. (DER4913JB120)

But there is always a danger that we as parents can become overly reliant on dummies and that we start to use them for the wrong reasons, which could ultimately affect our children’s development.

For this reason Little Hands SureStart - who are based at Rosemount Primary School and Springtown - are once again running their highly successful ‘Dump The Dummy’ campaign which advises and supports parents through the process of parting their children from their beloved soothers.

Lisa McGuinness, Family Team Leader at Little Hands SureStart explained: “This is the second year we have run the programme. We run it twice a year and tie it in with a big event such as Christmas and Easter so that children are handing over their dummies to Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

The big handover this time round will take place at Brooke Park Leisure Centre next Tuesday during the organisation’s annual Christmas party. At the last handover more than 100 children parted with their beloved soothers, but the programme is about much more than the final relinquishing of a favourite dummy!

Emma Mae of Little Hands pre school giving up her dummy as part of the Dump The Dummy campaign.  (DER4913JB121)

Emma Mae of Little Hands pre school giving up her dummy as part of the Dump The Dummy campaign. (DER4913JB121)

Ciara Quigley, leader of the Two Year Old Programme at SureStart, explained the programme involved a six week run up for the big day, for parents as well as for children.

“The first thing we do is invite parents in to talk to them about the programme. We get them to talk with a dummy in their mouth to see how that feels, how it affects their ability to speak clearly.

“And then over the course of the next few weeks we give them information - in bite size chunks - on why getting rid of the dummy is so important. We have even come up with a song for the kids to learn in time for the big day.”

Jillian McFaul is a Speech and Language Therapist with the Western Trust who works with the Two Year Old Programme one day a week.

She revealed that one in five children in the Derry area will experience some kind of communication difficulty and will require some sort of support to address the problem.

While she is keen to stress that not all communication difficulties are related to the use of a dummy or bottle, and that not all children who use dummies will develop speech problems, she said the facts can’t be ignored.

“The rates of communication difficulty here are massively high,” she said, “And it is always better to take preventative measures than to try and correct a problem after it has developed.

“What we try to do here is equip parents with the information they need to understand the importance of dumping the dummy but also to provide them with support while they do it.”

Lisa McGuinness added: “It’s all done in a very friendly way. We don’t want to lecture parents but to support them. I’ve yet to meet a parent who does not want the very best for their child and this is a way of giving their child the best start in life.

Jacqueline McCann’s two year-old daughter Kate is currently on the Two Year Programme at Little Hands and she admits that her daughter is very anxious about giving up her beloved dummy.

“Kate is a child who loves her dummy. She sleeps surrounded by them!

“The support of Little Hands has been priceless in helping prepare us gently to break the behaviour surrounding dummy use.

“They (Little Hands) have done a great job of creating a structured programme and it has been great to get that information as well as lots of tips on how to handle it.”

Parents are welcome to come along to the Christmas event at Brooke Park on Tuesday from 10am-12noon. For more info call 71 367524.