Dummies: The Good, The Bad & The Helpful

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Dummies seem to be one baby item which divides the nation – love them or hate them, here is our guide to using and loosing your baby’s pacifier.

THE GOOD

According to the Lullaby Trust, there is some evidence to suggest that dummy use can reduce the risk of SIDS. In addition, there has been significant research to show that sucking can actually help with pain relief. Anecdotally sucking on a dummy may help with pain management for babies with reflux and there are also known benefits for premature babies, where dummies can be used to develop their suck reflex while they are unable to orally feed. Some babies are “suckie babies” – sucking on a dummy calms and relaxes them and can even help them drift off to sleep.

THE BAD

One of the main disadvantages associated with dummy use is the possible impact on the child’s speech and language development. Stacey Zimmels Speech and Language Therapist from Feed Eat Speak explained “Having a dummy during the developmental phases of babbling and talking may inhibit the way your baby naturally makes sounds and attempts words. In addition, dummy use after 6 months of age continues to stimulate the suck reflex, which would otherwise diminish at this time. This may impact on both speech and eating development.”
There are also potential consequences for your baby’s dental development such as overbites with dummy use, and there are been concerns raised about the possible link between dummy use and both stomach and middle ear infections. Finally, the dreaded “dummy runs” with some babies calling out for their dummy as often as every 45mins overnight.

THE HELPFUL

Here are our top tips for using a dummy

  1. Wait until breastfeeding is established. This isn’t about a specific time frame. Once you feel confident in your feeding, you can latch your baby easily, and your milk supply is fully established, should you wish to, you can offer your baby a dummy – however we don’t recommend using a dummy to stretch between feeds or when your baby is hungry.
  2. Don’t force them. Not all babies like to suck on a dummy, if you are offering it repeatedly and your baby is spitting it out, then stop.
  3. Don’t dip your dummy in anything to encourage your baby to take it.
  4. Use silicone not latex dummies
  5. Opt for orthodontic dummies, these are kinder on your babies mouth/teeth development.
  6. Consider taking the dummy away between 6-12 months.

Here are our top tips for loosing a dummy (this advice would be most helpful for babies aged 6-18 months).

  1. If your baby is over 6 months you can introduce a safe comforter before taking away the dummy – this can help with the transition.
  2. Begin on night one, placing your little one into their cot without their dummy. Offer reassurance if needed through physical and verbal support for the first three nights to help them fall asleep in their cot but without the dummy.
  3. Continue on day 2 with their morning nap still without the dummy and for the first 3 days if settling is challenging you can allow other daytime naps to take place in easier settings such as the pram (still without the dummy).
  4. Carry on for 3 nights and 3 days helping your little one settle without their dummy.
  5. From night 4 onwards you can work on weaning them off the physical/verbal support to enable them to fully self-settle.
  6. If you prefer a slower approach then you can offer your little one their dummy and remove this just as they are falling asleep replacing if necessary with some physical/verbal support. Every 3 nights remove the dummy a little sooner.

Here are our top tips for keeping the dummy

  1. Keep this for sleep time only. Don’t allow your baby/child to use their dummy outside of their cot/bed – this can help reduce the negative impact on speech/dental development.
  2. You can place a number of dummies in your child’s cot including glow in the dark dummies to help them find their dummy more easily during the night.
  3. As soon as your baby has the skills (from around 6 months) teach them to find and place the dummy themselves – this will help reduce “dummy runs”. You can do this in 3 stages
    1. Begin by handing the dummy to your little one rather than placing it in their mouth – be consistent with this.
    2. Next, when your little one wakes in the night rather than handing the dummy to them, place it next to them and tap it to indicate where it is and allow them to reach and place it themselves.
    3. Move to tapping this wherever it is in the cot, rather than placing next to them to encourage them to learn to reach around to find it.

Please be aware that we recommend all parents follow safe sleep advice which you can read here.

If you would like any further advice or support with your little ones sleep please don’t hesitate to get in touch Vikki@allaboutbabies.org.uk