Is a dummy bad for my baby?

09 March 2016

Is a dummy bad for my baby?
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The use of dummies for babies is long-debated amongst new (and old) parents. The topic brings an array of contrasting opinions as well as the inevitable scare mongering tabloid headlines.

As new research emerges, many people are against the use of dummies, believing it causes issues with mouth development. Some argue the use of dummies is soothing and helps make a baby feel calm and relaxed in times of upset or stress.

We understand that raising children is one of the best things you’ll ever do but also one of the most difficult. So, we’ve put together some unbiased, factual advice based on studies and research to help you come to your own decision, without feeling judged or dictated to by anyone else.

The argument for:

Sleep: The most obvious argument for a dummy is the fact it can help soothe your baby to sleep. Sometimes babies will cry until they’re blue in the face and parents argue the stress of this can be worse for the baby’s brain development than soothing them with a dummy every so often.

Feeding: Dummies can help establish good sucking patterns in young babies – especially if born prematurely. This could be crucial to a premature baby’s survival if it helps lead to quicker, more substantial feeding.

SIDS: Sudden infant death syndrome is an extremely tragic form of death amongst infants. Research carried out by Monash Institute of Medical Research found that the protective effects of a dummy remain even after it has fallen out of a baby’s mouth. They found that babies who were using a dummy had more variation in their heart rate, which is a sign that their cardiac system was responding to changes in their blood pressure. However, it’s important to remember this is not the defining factor of cot death and in no way suggests babies who have died of SIDS would of survived if using a dummy. This is a fairly new area of research that needs much development.

If you do decide to give your baby a dummy at night for this reason, it’s still sensible to follow other safe sleeping guidelines.

The argument against:

Speech: It is thought by some speech therapists that using a dummy can reduce sound experimentation and delay speech progression. If a child is constantly sucking on a dummy they’re less likely to copy sounds adults make or attempt to play with sound via babbling. Babies need to be able to move the tip of their tongue in order to mimic sounds to understand and eventually reciprocate them.

Teeth: The British Orthodontic Society states dummy use will only affect teeth development if your baby is sucking for six hours a day or more. Sucking a dummy too often can lead to overdevelopment of the muscles at the front of the mouth which can lead to tongue thrust and affect teeth placement, it can also encourage a cross or open bite.

Infection: Dummies can be germ ridden and their use is often linked to risk of ear or stomach infections. When out and about it can be hard to keep on top of hygienic dummies, they can become covered in bacteria leading to viral illnesses. Although infection can be avoided by being vigilant, having multiple dummies on hand and sterilizing often.

What’s the result?

All babies are different and only you can decide what’s best for your child.

The evidence points to dummy use being acceptable, as long as you’re selective with the timeframe – rather than giving dummies at unnecessary times, resulting in prolonged sucking throughout the day. As with most things in life, balance is key.

What’s most important is you read as much information as possible and make a decision in line with your child’s needs, rather than focusing on what everyone around you is doing and feeling pressured to do the same. This will lead to nothing but frustration for both you and your baby.

After 6 months a dummy becomes less of a necessity and more of a habit, by 12 months you should definitely start considering giving it up. The earlier you begin, the easier it will be. If your child has started using a dummy as a transitional object to help cope with situations they find stressful (such as daycare or long car rides), don’t worry too much about allowing dummy use to last a little longer. Here is some useful information on moving towards saying goodbye to the dummy for good.

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