Lots of parents ask me for my opinion on dummies. Some parents see them as a godsend when juggling an upset baby or multiple children but I see the whole picture short and long term so I wanted to bring it all together for you.
While my answer is fairly simple the reasons behind it are not. I wanted to write this blog so every family had the information to make an informed decision as this topic involves a lot more than most would have ever considered. I know the temptation of the dummy and the peace families feel comes with it but over the past 10 years working with thousands of families and hundreds of families of multiples I have also seen the effects it can have on sleep but not just sleep. I’ve also worked with professionals in various fields such as dentists that specialise in soft tissue development and speech therapists that have seen much longer-term effects from dummy use.
Please take the time to read the whole article all as the information is very important to make an informed decision.
So, what is my stance on dummies? Do I recommend dummies? – NO
(one exception is in NICU or Special Care under supervision when help is needed for learning to suck. In that situation I recommend removing when you get home for the reasons below)
What about Multiples or when you have young toddlers as well and your hands as a parent are so full? – Still NO (sorry I know I know this sounds harsh but please keep reading to understand why I feel so strongly on this topic)
Ok so as you can see this is a pretty definitive answer and considering their wide use you are probably wondering how I can be so firm on the subject. So here are my reasons – there is always more but let’s have a look at things.
⭐️They are a sleep aid – if a baby falls asleep with a dummy then when they pass through a sleep cycle or it falls out they will cry for it to be replaced – this may not be apparent immediately as babies don’t sleep in cycles right away but this becomes more apparent as they get older. It may appear ok when tiny or you may get lucky and have a child this doesn’t affect but the other reasons still apply.
If this happens with your little one you will find you are constantly needing to replace the dummy. This may happen as often as every 40 mins through the night! Suddenly that little thing which seemed like a good idea to keep them happy is driving you insane! Some parents argue they use a toy that helps keep the dummy close (soft toys like this aren’t SIDS safe to have in the cot) or the child is able to replace themselves so it’s ok. In these cases, the issues below are still relevant
⭐️A baby with a dummy is not self-settling. It is a sleep aid. So many parents contact me and say my little one self settles but has xyz sleep issues. When I ask they have a dummy. This may not seem relevant but when they are aware of their sleep cycles and start to wake looking for it as they can’t put themselves to sleep or back to sleep it is really relevant!
⭐️They mask the real issue. Babies cry for a reason and to communicate and offering the dummy masks the real reason – we don’t solve the problem. Many parents don’t see this as that much of an issue as the little ones are happy for the car trip or while people visit etc or while they tended to another child but they may have been crying because they had wind or they were overtired and now time has passed and what could have been a simple issue to solve without the dummy is a bigger one and affecting getting them to sleep for their day sleep or meaning trouble settling down or sleeping well for the night. Identifying and solving the problem as it happens is always much better and can result in a much more settled baby who will be fine without the dummy
⭐️The constant sucking prevents babies and toddlers from reaching deep sleep. This deep sleep is important for development and also for good quality sleep that is restorative. Ok so people will argue this one saying that preventing deep sleep is preventative for SIDS. All babies will still surface between sleep cycles dummy or no dummy. Sleeping through or frequently waking. We never stop this preventative waking. Babies that are sleeping well are just able to surface and drift back to sleep
⭐️I have seen babies with dummies get hungry faster as the sucking motion tells the body to digest food faster as they think more food is coming. So, babies can wake hungry more often with a dummy. This is another way that the dummy leads to frequent night waking or early rising
⭐️Dummy use affects jaw and facial development. Having a dummy in the mouth prevents the tongue from residing in the roof of the mouth where it should. Resting in this position helps to shape the architecture of the face not just the jaw. Many believe this is only an issue if the dummy is still being used when adult teeth come in. Jaw development starts in the womb and continues from there so dummy use even at a young age has an effect on jaw and facial development. Which is a strong reason on its own not to use a dummy. This is a really big point for me. After seeing over and over the differences in facial development and jaw development with the use of dummies I just can’t back their use at all. This is an issue that starts in the womb. Ok so your little ones aren’t sucking a dummy in the womb (that would be quite the party trick lol!) but they can suck their thumb and it has been shown that facial and jaw development can be influenced even then by thumb sucking in the womb. So dummy sucking is definitely an issue from birth. The developmental differences are big so definitely something you want to avoid. I know many parents don’t feel this is an issue with their child but quite often the effects aren’t obvious until teenage or even adult years
⭐️We all know that breastfeeding helps with this jaw and facial development and is often something parents consider with breastfeeding. It is important to note that using the dummy when breastfeeding will negate a lot if not all of these positive effects on jaw and facial development.
⭐️Dummy use increases the risk of ear infections
⭐️Dummy use can negatively affect latch and interfere with breastfeeding both with latch and supply. We know tandem feeding is harder than feeding a singleton so avoiding anything that can make it even harder should be up the top of the list.
⭐️Long term dummy use is linked to speech development issues. Again, people think that this is mostly an issue if using in the toddler years when speech starts happening but remember the changes in jaw development. This affects how the teeth come in which affects speech so it can definitely impact speech with use when younger
⭐️Dummies should not be used without supervision. This is on the packet!! So, a child should never be left with a dummy when unsupervised which is what happens when they sleep. I don’t know how this one gets overlooked so often as dummies are left in for sleep even in hospital when they aren’t always supervised. When you have two or three or even more bubs you are not able to supervise all sleeps 24 hours a day!
A child crying or frequently waking is doing so for a reason so it is important to work out why. I know as a parent this is our main concern but often when life is crazy we use the dummy and miss our little ones cues. I know dummies can be convenient when out and babies are upset especially when you have more than one child but I really believe that the negatives of dummy use way out weight any positives. I strongly recommend parents consider all these facts when considering dummy use and look at addressing why their little ones are upset as usually addressing the underlying issues will result in a much more settled baby who doesn’t need that dummy. I know we are all just doing our best as parents and there is a lot of differing info out there which is why I wanted to bring together all this information from my experience as well as other well trusted professionals over the years
⭐️If your child already has a dummy I would recommend removing it. Removing it now will allow the jaw to begin forming correctly, minimise future speech issues and make a big difference to your little ones sleep now and in the future. Remember though that they are using it to settle so removing it means teaching self-settling. I only recommend this as the final step once we have ensured all their needs relating to sleep and settling have been addressed as in the way I do during my Consultations. If you try to remove a dummy without addressing everything else first then it will likely be much harder than it needs to be or not work so meeting your little ones sleep needs is crucial.
I know this may have raised questions. You may feel you need help with sleep in general or the dummy removal.
Dream Winks can help.
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