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Dummies for babies: The pros, the cons and when to give them up

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Dummy
Dummies bring comfort and security to thousands of babies and young children, yet many parents find them a controversial choice.

For a new parent dummies can feel like a mind boggling world, with many unsure of whether they're a good or bad habit to start in your little one.

We've outlined the facts - and the fiction - about dummies here so that you can make up your own mind. And if your little one is still reluctant to give up their dummy, isn't it rather comforting to know you're not the only one?

What is a dummy?


Dummies, which are also known as pacifiers or soothers, are a device that babies can suck on to help calm them down and soothe them when crying, restless or struggling to sleep.

Dummies are made from a silicone or rubber teat that's attached to a plastic shield, this stops the baby swallowing or choking on the teat and often includes a little handle to help you pick the dummy up also.

The idea is that your baby will suck the dummy and it will calm them down, allowing them to go to sleep and maybe even let you get a little bit of rest!

Why do parents use dummies?

Some parents believe that using a dummy is a natural soother for a baby, as in some ways it replicates a mother's nipple and the action of sucking feels familiar to a baby. By letting your baby suck on a dummy you can give yourself and your breasts a rest from breastfeeding if they are just looking for some comfort.

Of course when juggling the many stressful parts of parenthood, a sure fire way of keeping a crying baby relaxed is a good enough reason for many parents.

What age is it okay to start using a dummy?

It's recommended to wait until your baby is at least a month old before using a dummy. If possible it's preferable to even wait six to eight weeks, as this will give them a chance to get used to breastfeeding first.

What age should you stop using a dummy?


If you decide to stop using a dummy with your baby at three months, their memory of relying on this as a soothing mechanism will fade very quickly. But, if you choose to continue using a dummy you should prepare yourself for what could be a bumpy ride when you attempt to take it away between six months and a year and your child is more reliant on it.

If your child is still using a dummy 12-18 months it could begin to affect their speech. At this age, your toddler should be babbling happily, however, if they've got a dummy in their mouth all day they may not bother. This means their speech could be delayed. So if your baby is still really attached to their dummy, try weaning them off at this stage, especially during the day.

Chances are they won't be too happy about it and you may have a few bad nights, especially if they normally use the dummy to get off to sleep, but this should pass fairly quickly.

By age three your child's teeth may begin to suffer if they're still using a dummy for long periods of time. Excessive use of a dummy at this age may push your child's upper teeth forward and cause dental problems which will have to be rectified later.

Expert opinion is divided on this and some children do seem more prone to problems than others. Thumb sucking is still considered by many to be more hazardous to teeth than dummies, especially if you stick to the orthodontic shaped ones.

What are the advantages of a dummy?

The main clear advantage is that a dummy is most probably the quickest technique to soothe your baby and quiet any crying that you've already tried to solve with other methods such as changing their nappy or giving them a feed.

A dummy is particularly helpful if you're taking your bundle of joy on a flight or in a public space that you want to avoid them crying.

There has also been some research that suggests that dummies help reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

What are the disadvantages of using a dummy?

Some of the main worries when it comes to using dummies are those that occur the longer a child uses a dummy, such as the previously mentioned speech delay or dental issues.

For babies a problem can be that they are vulnerable to picking up illnesses so it's important to be careful in checking that your baby's dummy is clean at all times and only put it in their mouth once sterilised.

Research has also suggested that sucking a dummy can lead a child to have an increased chance of picking up ear infections because of any bacteria that sits on the dummy and gets into their ear passages.

How can I get my child to give up their dummy?


1. Get your dentist to help Take your child for a check-up and ask the dentist explain to them how they could get Bugs Bunny teeth if they don't give up the dummy. Your child has probably heard you moaning about the dummy for ages and won't take anything you say about it seriously. So there's more chance they'll believe the dentist than you.

2. Set a date Be sensible - pick a quiet weekend when it doesn't matter too much if you have a few broken nights sleep. And make sure the time is right for your child too - don't think about taking the dummy away if they're currently going through a difficult time, for example, if you've just had a baby, moved house, gone back to work, or your child's been recently ill. These are not good times to take away your child's comforter.

3. Replace it If they're worried about going to bed without the dummy, give them something to cheer them up. A special teddy to cuddle or a new duvet cover can make bedtime more attractive.

4. Bribe and praise If your child can get through one night without a dummy, tell them they can have a small present the next day. When this happens, praise them continually and build their confidence, tell them how clever they are and how proud you are of them.

Continued below...


Try not to back down. If your child manages one night dummy-free they can manage the next, and the next, so do not give in if they suddenly decide they want the dummy back. If you do, they'll lose confidence in their ability to do without it - and so will you.

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Aimee

I was lucky enough not to have this "problem" with my daughter, as she had a dummy for around 3 weeks, tossed across the bedroom one day, and discovered her Thumb!! She still, at the age of 8 sucks it when she's in bed and tired, but it slides out and that's her - gone! But I feel I can't really say too much about that because I myself was born sucking my Thumb, and shamefully - I still sometimes do it when I'm tired! (Choosing not to reveal my age) but I did see Jo Frost aka Supernanny doing a brilliant trick with kids who didn't want to give up their dummies - which was to tell the child the "fairies" (for a girl) or "pirates" (for a boy) or whatever their into wanted their dummies in order to carry out their special mission, they had to take the dummies, place them in a delivery envelope, pop them in the post box (decorated to make it fun!) And the next morning when they woke up, the fairies / pirates would have left them a special present - a new toy / game / teddy etc as a thank you - sort of like the tooth fairy idea, the children were over the moon! So I would recommend that to any parent having trouble!!

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