Its seems to me that dummies are as divisive in the parenting world as Marmite. It seems that you either love them or hate them.
Some parents pop a dummy into their sleepy newborn baby’s mouth without a second thought, whereas others gasp in horror “not over my dead body!”
I believe that either view is fine. For me there is no right or wrong answer. It’s purely down to preference and what works for you. More often than not, you won’t be able to make that decision until you meet and understand your own unique child. And what worked for one child may not be the case for another sibling that comes along.
To inform your decision, here are both sides of the dummy debate and you can think about whether you love them or hate them!
On the plus side, there is really no harm in giving a baby a dummy (although dentists may disagree with me!)
A dummy can be comforting to a baby as it supports their natural reflex to suckle. It can provide some degree of relief for babies suffering with reflux or colic, and as long as breast feeding is well-established, dummies can be used from as young as four weeks.
There is some evidence to support the idea that dummies can decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by up to 61% from 4 weeks of age up to 6 months old (when the risk of SIDS reduces). However, the study also highlights that parents should not worry if the dummy falls out, nor should they force a child to take a dummy simply to reduce the risk of SIDS.
If you do decide to use a dummy with your child The Lullaby Trust offers the following safety advice
• If you choose to use a dummy, wait until breastfeeding is well established (about 4 weeks old)
• Never force your baby to take a dummy or put it back in if your baby spits it out
• Don’t use a neck cord and don’t put anything sweet on the dummy
• Avoid using the dummy during awake time
• Using an orthodontic dummy is best as it adapts to your baby’s mouth shape
• Stop giving a dummy to your baby to go to sleep between 6 and 12 months
On the reverse side or the downside of dummy debate, Dentists and speech therapists do warn of the dangers of dummy usage, particularly after the age of around 6 months, as it can have an effect on your child’s mouth shape, speech and tooth formation.
And sleep experts warn that whilst a dummy can be helpful in getting your baby to sleep, as a parent, you will need to continuously replace the dummy in her mouth (re-plug it) for her each and every time that she wakes up. This repetitive support will prevent her from learning the essential skills required to settle herself to sleep and form a ‘sleep crutch’ (something that she is dependent upon to go to sleep).
This constant dummy re-plugging will need to continue each and every time she wakes until she is around 8 months old and has developed the pincher grip skills required to replace the dummy herself. And even then, she may still require you to ‘help’ her replace the dummy, because she is used to the ritual of you doing it.
Can you have the best of both worlds?
This is a question I hear fairly regularly. Can you allow your child the comfort of a dummy AND reduce the risk of SIDs WITHOUT spending months replacing the dummy every time she wakes?
Yes you can!
You can allow your child the comfort of a dummy but adopt either;
A no re-plug policy – You decide that you WILL NOT replace or re-plug the dummy if it drops out of her mouth when she is sleeping. This means that if she cannot replace the dummy herself, then she will learn to resettle without it. Whilst this can be hard in the short-term, it prevents months of midnight stumbles in the dark to replace the dummy, and will prevent the dummy becoming a sleep crutch for her.
Or A DIY policy – If your child is around 8 months or older, she may have developed the pincher grasp required to pick up and hold her own dummy, just like she would pick up a piece of food and eat it. If she has developed this skill, you can introduce a DIY policy where your child has to replace her own dummy.
To begin with you will need to place the dummy into her hand and encourage her to re-plug it herself. Eventually you can guide her hand towards the dummy for her to pick up and re-plug herself, before just simply pointing to the dummy for her to pick up, and then eventually she will be able to do it all by herself.
For this method you will need to have lots of dummies available in the cot, or use something like a dummy teddy or a sleepy tot to hold the dummy, but not a dummy cord, ribbon or tie.
So, how can I ditch the dummy?
Again, this is another question I hear a lot!
Unfortunately there is no such thing as weaning a dummy. The dummy is either in her mouth, or it isn’t.
There are very few children that give up their dummy of their own accord, and even then they are usually aged 3 or above and have had some degree of reasoning, persuasion or even bribery from their parents.
Unfortunately, the only successful way to ditch the dummy is cold turkey.
Here are my tips for successfully ditching the dummy.
Well rested – Start on a day when your child is well napped. Trying something new (and particularly something that is going to unsettle the child) is always easier if they are well rested and content.
Story time – If your child is old enough to understand a basic story, it’s a nice idea to tell them a little story about why all the dummies have gone now and that they won’t be here anymore. I’ve heard several versions about dummy fairies, dummy pirates, and even dummy bin men! If you choose to, you can offer a small gift or reward for them being brave or kind.
Be prepared for tears – When you remove the dummy, you are removing the child’s sleep crutch, or normal method that they use to get to sleep. Be prepared to offer lots of soothing and reassurance whilst your child discovers how to sleep without the dummy. It can be challenging in the beginning but stick with it and it will pay off as you’ll soon have a baby who can sleep soundly through the night.
No going back – Once you make this move, you cannot go back. Not for any reason. If you do, your child will find it very hard to believe you when you try again. For you own sake, you must get shot of them all to remove all temptation of pulling one out in the heat of a challenging moment.
If you have any question or issues with the Dummy, book in for a Free 15-minute, no obligation call with me to discuss how I can help you and your child to enjoy better sleep by clicking here
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Rachael, The Sleep Sanctuary
The Sleep Sanctuary is a Children’s Sleep Consultancy, supporting tired parents to help their children sleep soundly and live healthier, happier lives