Dummy or no dummy

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Discussion about dummies can easily become heated because parents and babies have vastly different experiences with them.

Some parents will tell you life isn’t worth living if a baby doesn't have a dummy. Others will tell you a dummy is the worst thing you could give your baby.

With dummies, as with everything you’ll hear from me, there are no right or wrong answers. So let's dive in and flesh it out a bit.

The argument for dummies

The school of thought in favour of dummies:

  • Babies soothe themselves by sucking and sometimes need to spend time sucking
  • If you have a rapid milk flow and your baby doesn’t spend very long on the breast, they may benefit from some extra sucking time so they can settle
  • Babies who are ill, for example in special care nursery, are often offered dummies for comfort
  • Sucking is said to help a baby manage pain or discomfort, such as reflux.

For more tips on settling your baby, read these real-life stories from families who were struggling with baby sleep. Find out more >>

The argument against

The school of thought against dummies goes something like this:

  • Babies who have not yet developed their sucking technique on the breast may get 'nipple confusion', because the sucking technique on a dummy is different to the breast. Dummies are not recommended for babies who are not feeding well at the breast.
  • When babies suck a dummy while going to sleep, their jaw relaxes and the dummy drops out. The baby may then wake frequently to have the dummy put back in their mouth
  • Communication development can be impaired if a baby sucks a dummy for too much of the day. Pre-verbal vocalisations (coo-ing, gah-ing etc) are a necessary part of language development.
  • Babies can become dummy dependant - a baby who is offered the dummy frequently may become reliant on the dummy all the time.
  • Toddlers may become dependent on a dummy too - research has identified that toddlers have a lower IQ if they constantly have a dummy in their mouth when awake.

Sometimes parents may really want their baby to take a dummy and the baby simply won’t be interested. If you remain open to the idea of your baby’s needs, you will make a decision that works for both you and your baby. 

Should I remove the dummy when they’re settled?

As a rule of thumb, dummies are for soothing and comforting. When a baby is calm and contented, they simply don't need their dummy.

When they’re sleeping, it’s a good idea to remove the dummy so the get used to sleeping without one.

If your baby is unsettled and you’re not sure whether a dummy is the right choice, you can always chat with us because we’ve seen many babies with and without dummies. We can advise on how to offer a dummy or how to wean your baby off a dummy.

Bottom line

You may have a set idea about dummies, but it’s often wise to be flexible. Your baby may really benefit from the comfort of some additional sucking at bedtime. And it will be important to think about weening your bub off the dummy too.

Fun fact

Babies can distinguish between different dummies by looking at them, even if they have never actually seen them before? That is an amazing ability to be able to take an oral experience and match it with a visual representation! Never underestimate the capacity of babies

Helen’s new book

Get tips on helping your baby find sleep and remove the stress from bed time. Read real-life stories from families Helen worked with to get an insight into how Helen can help.
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