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The Dummy Dilemma
You may be among those parents who are totally ‘anti’ dummies (also known as pacifiers) – but a fretful, frequently-crying baby may make you think again!
At around 2-3 months you may consider giving a dummy to help your baby settle down to sleep, or to relieve pain such as with colic – although there is no proof that this actually works. If you decide to give your baby a dummy, you will join around two thirds of all parents.
Below are some things that you need to be aware of, and that may help with your decision:
Speech delay‘Babbling’ and – later on – ‘chatting’ are important stages of speech development. When baby is awake, having a dummy frequently or for long periods can affect these important stages.
Tooth formationLong-term use of dummies (and/ or thumb sucking) can cause problems with normal tooth development – particularly significant when your child’s permanent teeth begin to appear.
Stomach infectionsIf cleaning and sterilizing are not thorough, germs could enter your baby’s mouth, risking viral illnesses and viral gastroenteritis – with symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Breast-feeding issuesIf you are breastfeeding, your baby may become confused by having a different- textured teat. Breast stimulation from sucking is important in producing prolactin, which in turn stimulates the supply of milk – it is possible that less use of the breast may result in reduced milk supply. ‘Nipple confusion’ and/or reduced milk supply can lead to abandoning breastfeeding totally after just 2 or 3 months – in fact the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is keen to discourage the use of dummies, recommending using the breast only for the first 6 months of an infant’s life.
Dummies and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – or cot death)Use of a dummy may possibly help prevent SIDS by affecting baby’s sleeping position – the profile of the mouth shield and handle keeping baby’s nose and mouth clear of bedding. Using a dummy may also keep baby in a state of greater arousal, and the sucking action may help the way your baby controls his or her upper airway – so baby will possibly be less likely to have breathing or heart problems while asleep. In the UK, NHS guidelines state: “It is possible that using a dummy at the start of any sleep period reduces the risk of cot death. However, the evidence is not robust and not all experts agree they should be promoted”.
- Dummies have a teat made of silicone or latex rubber; latex is softer and more flexible than silicone, but does not last as long.
- Dummies are easy to sterilize, and some come with covers for when they are not in use.
- Buy good orthodontic dummies.
- Sterilise dummies regularly and keep them clean at all times.
- Look for cracks and splits – they trap germs, throw the dummy away.
- Buy new dummies regularly and throw away old ones.
- Never dip a dummy in honey, fruit juice, or anything sweet – this will lead to tooth decay
- Limit dummy use to when baby needs settling to sleep, or is disturbed or unwell.
- Don’t give a dummy automatically – think about whether your baby really needs it.
- Don’t let using a dummy become a habit.
- Wean baby off the dummy before 12 months of age.
- Gradually cut down dummy use to only at bedtime or when your child is ill – and be firm.
- Reward an older child (but not with sweets) when he or she goes without a dummy.
- Your child will want to be like ‘older’ children so point out that older children don’t use dummies.
- Encourage your child to ‘give his or her dummies away’ to a baby brother or sister, or to a friend’s baby.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.
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