The dummy debate

We weigh the pros and cons of giving your baby a dummy
Although dummies have been used for centuries they are still a very controversial area of parenting and most people have strong views either for, or against their use.

Deciding whether to introduce a dummy into your baby's life is a very personal decision and one that should be made by you alone. There are good arguments for either side of the debate so to help you feel informed we explain what you need to know about dummies.

The advantages of using a dummy
  • Comfort - Babies love sucking anything and everything and will do so whether it's a dummy, their own hand or something else new and interesting. Some babies even begin sucking their thumb in the womb! The action of sucking alone is of great comfort to most infants so having a dummy can help them feel more able to calmly adjust to life in the outside world.

  • Freedom - Some parents feel that giving their child a dummy allows them the freedom to establish a feeding routine that works for them and for baby rather than simply having to comfort feed on demand.

  • Sleep - Many babies find it difficult to settle by themselves and they can find it an enormous comfort to suck on a dummy as they dose off. For some parents this is a good option as it means they do not become dependent on being fed to sleep or rocked to sleep by Mum or Dad, making life easier and less stressful for everyone.

  • Pain relief - For some babies, sucking on a dummy seems to help relieve the painful symptoms of colic and wind where other methods have failed.

  • Safety - Research has found that use of a dummy during nap time can cut the risk of SIDS by up to a half and FSID now recommend that all newborns sleep with a dummy. Click here for more information on dummies and sleep.

  • Feeding -There is some evidence that sucking on a dummy can help premature babies establish bottle feeding earlier, often meaning that they are able to leave hospital sooner than they would otherwise be able.

  • Thumb-sucking - Dummy use reduces the likelihood that a baby will become a 'thumb sucker' as their mouth is otherwise occupied. Because it's far easier to wean a little one off a dummy than it is their thumb, many parents see this as the preferred option.
The disadvantages of using a dummy
  • Speech problems - Sucking on a dummy during waking hours means that babies miss out on the essential babble and chatter that plays a vital role in their early speech development. Prolonged use can have serious implications for their speech development.

  • Dental problems - Daily use also has implications for teeth development, particularly in older infants. Teeth can become deformed and may not grow properly, leading to problems that have to be corrected later on.

  • Ear infections - There is some evidence that the frequent use of dummies can cause infections of the middle ear.

  • Stomach bugs - Diarrhea, vomiting and other stomach-bug type infections are also more common with babies that frequently use dummies

  • Nipple confusion - Use of dummies on a daily basis may also interfere with breast feeding, either by causing nipple confusion (whereby baby finds it difficult to adjust to suckling on their mother's nipple after an aesthetically shaped teat) or by reducing milk production in the mother as a result of less comfort feeding. Either way, the use of a dummy is associated with a likelihood to stop breastfeeding earlier.
How to use a dummy

If you do decide to use a dummy you should try to stick to the following guidelines so as to take advantage of the benefits a soother has to offer and minimise the disadvantages.
  • Only offer a dummy when baby lies down for a nap or sleep or when they are in discomfort from colic.

  • Use only specially formed orthodontic dummies.

  • Regularly sterilise your babies dummies and dispose of them if they become worn or cracked.

  • Never dip the dummy in something sweet to encourage its use.

  • Never force baby to take a dummy, some just don't enjoy it.

  • Avoid introducing a dummy until your baby is a month old if you plan to breastfeed.

  • Start to wean your baby from the dummy when they reach 6 months as this is when the risk of SIDS drops naturally.
Did you introduce your baby to a dummy? What influenced your decision? Why not share your questions and experiences with other members on the AskBaby forums.

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