Should I spit the dummy?

Over the last few weeks, I have been asked by many families about the use of dummies. Like everything there is a place for a dummy and today I am going to discuss this further. There are always strong opinions when it comes to any topic in the parenting arena and people become experts after even one lived experience! The bottom line is, you are the expert of your child and if it works for you that is great.

Advantages of a dummy

+ Sucking a dummy can have a soothing effect on babies and can help them sleep or settle. It is known to release the same feel good hormones as feeding

+ When babies use dummies during sleeps and naps, there’s a reduced risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleeping accidents.

Disadvantages of a dummy

  • Infants can become reliant on them to fall asleep
  • Dummy use is linked to slightly higher rates of middle ear infections
  • If your child is using a dummy in their later years, like 4-5 years, it is linked to dental issues
  • When babies are reliant on a dummy to fall asleep, if they wake overnight and the dummy is not in place, they require parents to help.
  • Can reduce the number of breastfeeds if dummy is offered instead of breast.

Choosing a dummy

  • Look for a one-piece dummy. If there are many parts to the dummy they can fall apart and become a choking hazard. There is an Australian standard for dummies so please make sure the one you choose complies.
  • Does the dummy have an easy grip so your child can earn to put them in by themselves?
  • Is it the right size and shape for your child?

Introducing a dummy

There are no hard and fast rules around when a dummy can be introduced, it may be your mother in law who introduces it when you are at the shops for five minutes! It is recommended you establish breastfeeding prior to introducing the dummy. It is possible for newborns to develop nipple/ dummy confusion which can affect feeding. If you are bottle feeding this is not so much of a problem. You may think you want to use a dummy but your baby might have other thoughts. Again, take this all in your stride it may or may not work for your family. Some children will prefer their hands or fists and will have reliance on this rather than a dummy.

Some general tips

  • If you are breastfeeding, make sure you use it only when your baby is full, this way the dummy will not interfere with breastfeeding.
  • Never dip the dummy in a sweet product, this can lead to dental decay
  • Have some boundaries around dummy use and stick with them. Whilst it can be sensory nourishment, you do not want this at the compromise of meeting your baby’s needs
  • Check the dummy frequently for damage and replace it frequently.
  • Keep spare dummies handy, if it gets dropped in the first six months it needs to be sterilized.
  • Do not tie the dummy around your baby’s hand or cot. This can lead to adverse outcomes.

 Answering your questions

Q. How to help baby find it themselves and replace it during sleep
A. Babies and children need time and space to master any new skill. As your baby gets older instead of placing the dummy in their mouth, you can place it in their hands and help them guide it into their mouths. If they are in a cot, place pressure on the cot mattress where the dummy is and encourage them to reach out for it. You may need to guide them and help them explore the cot space but this is our role as a parent. They probably won’t master it immediately; they may be able to do it sometimes but not always but being calm and encouraging is the key.

 

Best way and time to get rid of them
Again, there are no rules on when you should stop using a dummy. I always say to families, is the dummy becoming a problem. This may include excessive night waking, no dummy free time, child’s behaviour is impacted by the dummy or you feel they no longer need it. It may be that they are having reoccurring ear infections or it may be due to advise from your dentist. When the dummy is no longer working for your family it is time to ditch it.

Here are my tips on ditching the dummy

  1. The parents and carers need to have the time and energy to ditch the dummy. We all know it takes time to break habits
  2. Talk about it with your child, it is important to include them in the decision making. Help them understand the emotions they are feeling
  3. Give extra cuddles
  4. Collect all the dummies in the house, depending how many you have, this may take some time. Trust me your little one will find them
  5. Start in the morning, it is great to practice going to sleep without it in daylight hours. You know this is going to take extra time, so have the time for it. We are all less patient in the middle of the night and this isn’t the time to make a snap decision when it’s the fifth wake up for the night
  6. Before the first sleep, do lots of activity, fill their sensory cup to the brim as when you are super tired you go to sleep quicker and for longer. It may be that they have a nap in the car without it. That’s fantastic, they have fallen asleep without it

Don’t

  1. Ditch it the day a new baby arrives
  2. Start on the fifth wakeup of the night
  3. Please don’t ditch the dummy if you don’t have time, your stressed or super busy. It is not going to work.
Q. What’s the best age to take them away
A. I feel I have partly answered this question above but some families I work with have great success at removing the dummy around six months. Don’t worry if you have missed this window as it is not definitive. My simple answer is to take the dummy away when you feel it is the right time for your infant. It is often our mindset as the parent that plays the biggest part in removing the dummy. If you know in your mind that it will take time, give extra cuddles and have patience it will be okay. If you have in your mind it is going to be a disaster… guess what, it will be. So, check in with yourself, don’t become frustrated instead take a deep breath and help your child learn a new skill.