The Dummy Dilemma

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 formation
Long-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 infections
If 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 issues
If 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.BabyHealth2

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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