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

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  • 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 for babies can feel like a mind boggling world, with many unsure of whether they’re a good or bad habit to start for your little one.

    We’ve outlined the facts – and the fiction – about dummies for babies 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 for babies
    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 for babies 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.

    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 dummies. 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?

    dummies for babies
    If you decide to stop using dummies 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 dummies 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 at 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 it 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 dummies 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 for babies, especially if you stick to the orthodontic shaped ones.

    What are the advantages of a dummy?

    The main clear advantage is that dummies are most probably the quickest technique for southing 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 where 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 revolve around the longevity of its use – and trying to teach a child to soothe themselves without it. Speech delay or dental issues can also occur if a child uses a dummy for too long.

    For babies, a problem can be that they are vulnerable to picking up illnesses so it’s important to checkĀ  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 to an increased risk of ear infections, as any bacteria that sits on the dummy can find its way to the ear passages.

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

    dummies for babies

    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 over 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.

    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.