As a Midwife and Child Health Nurse who works closely with babies from birth to 5 years old, I have some useful insight into the use of a dummy for babies that I would like to share with you.
6 positive reasons for a baby to use a dummy
5 ways a baby can be disadvantaged for using a dummy
What type of dummy to choose
Not all babies take to sucking a dummy but there are certainly babies in the world that benefit from sucking one. These are
1. Babies who are 3 – 4 weeks old who have learnt to attach and feed well from the breast but think they should feed constantly. In this situation, the breast feeding mother and her nipples could do with some relief and possibly repair from constant sucking. It is however, important not to substitute a breast feed for a dummy soothe as this can reduce milk production resulting in an undernourished and unsettled baby
2. A baby sucking a dummy can reduce their tummy discomfort and pain until the cause of the pain and discomfort is diagnosed and relieved
3. Sucking a dummy can reduce the pain of oesophageal reflux allowing for a bit more sleep!
4. Recent knowledge indicates a baby sucking a dummy can reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This is thought to be due to a baby being in a more alert state of sleep and having their airways in a more open position allowing for better air entry. There are also other factors relating to the reduction of SIDS
5. Premature babies are given a dummy to encourage them suck when they are fed via a tube and to stimulate their suck before they are able to breast feed.
6. A baby who settles to sleep best with a sucking action. Commonly, a baby who is fed either breast milk or infant formula from a bottle requires a dummy to build up the length of sucking time required in a day.
Here are 5 reasons why a baby is disadvantaged using a dummy.
1. There is an increased risk of bacterial infections from dirty dummies. Sterilise them regularly and throw out any that have cracks or worn areas where bacteria can settle.
2. The continued use of a dummy after 3 – 4 months can set up strong sleep associations that can lead to unsettled sleep in the months that follow.
3. The regular and frequent use of a dummy has been shown to decrease the length of time a woman will continue to breast feed.
4. A young baby who sucks too often on a dummy can be too tired for nutritional breast feeding.
5. The use of a dummy after 9 months can not only disturb good sleep patterns but it can also interrupt speech development.
It can be difficult to know which dummy is best when there is a large variety on the market. Consider these 3 things which closely mimic a breast nipple.
1. Look for the dummy that is soft and supple. The brown latex rubber is usually the softest.
2. Choose a shape that is similar to a nipple, this is usually the round cherry or bulb shaped dummy.
3. It needs to be large enough to reach back into the back of the baby's mouth. This will depend on the size of baby.
With the above information in mind, I believe there is a place for a dummy in a baby's life providing that it is an appropriate dummy used at an appropriate time and only for the first 3 – 4 months of life when a baby's strong sucking reflex is present. After this they discover other ways to be soothed other than a dummy.
Jan Murray has been committed to studying and working as a Registered Nurse, Midwife and Child Health Nurse for over 25 years. Jan is a mother of 5, Child Health Consultant who co-founded and directs Settle Petal. Jan provides information and support for parents to develop their knowledge base and confidence. Receive your FREE Routines eBook at http://www.settlepetal.com to unlock a secret to helping babies settle, sleep and grow.