As a Midwife and Child Health Nurse who works closely with babies, I’ve learnt a thing or two about the use of dummies that I would like to share with you. The decision to use one or not will be then up to you.
Not all babies take to sucking a dummy but there are certainly babies who do benefit.
Seven positive reasons for a baby to use a dummy
- Babies 3 to 4-weeks old who attach and feed well from the breast may at times need to keep sucking for comfort or stress relief. This is when a dummy can come in handy to give your nipples a rest. It is however, important not to substitute a breast feed for a dummy as this can reduce milk production resulting in an undernourished and unsettled baby
- A baby sucking a dummy can reduce tummy discomfort, cranial discomfort and wind pain. However, by aiding the digestive process this then can cause them to become hungrier earlier
- Provide pain relief when hurt or when having an immunization
- Sucking a dummy can reduce the pain of gastro oesophageal reflux allowing for a bit more sleep for everyone!
- Recent knowledge indicates a baby sucking a dummy can reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This is thought to be due to a baby being in a more alert state of sleep and having their airways in a more open position allowing for better air entry. There are also other factors relating to the reduction of SIDS
- Premature babies are given dummies to help them suck when they are fed via a tube and to stimulate their suck before they are able to breast feed efficiently. Research indicates this helps reduces their stay in NICU
- A baby who settles to sleep easier with a sucking action. Commonly, a baby who is fed milk from a bottle requires a dummy to increase sucking time each day.
Seven reasons why a baby is disadvantaged using a dummy
- An increased risk of bacterial infections. Sterilise dummies daily and throw out ones with cracks or worn areas where bacteria can settle
- Using a dummy after 4 to 5-months can set up strong sleep associations that can lead to unsettled sleep in the months that follow
- Regular and frequent use of a dummy has been shown to decrease the length of time a mother will continue to breast feed
- Too much dummy sucking may make a baby too tired for milk feeds
- Sucking a dummy after 9-months may disturb good sleep patterns if used for settling to sleep or interfere with speech development if used during the day
- It’s a choking hazard if faulty or worn out
- Sucking on a dummy when your baby could be awake and babbling restricts the natural development of language.
Which dummy to choose?
There are many dummies on the market and it can be difficult to know which one is best.
- Look for the dummy that is soft and supple. The brown latex rubber is usually the softest
- Choose a shape that is similar to your nipple, this is usually the round cherry or bulb shaped dummy, large or small
- It needs to be large enough to reach the soft palate in your baby’s mouth but not too far back to touch the ‘gag reflex‘. This will depend on the size of your baby’s mouth
With the above information in mind, there is a place for dummies for some babies, providing that it is an appropriate dummy used at an appropriate time and preferably for the first 4-months of life when a baby’s strong sucking reflex is present. After this age (with guidance) babies discover other ways to soothe themselves and dummies can be discarded.
You will make the right decision for your baby. Don’t feel guilty with the decision to use a dummy or not.
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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. She publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.