Baby News

The Dummy Debate

Thursday 7th of February 2013  |  Category: Baby News  |  Written by: Alice Edwards

Dummies: people either love or hate them. Parents often feel guilty about using them, or embarrassed. Dummies have a somewhat negative reputation, and have in the past been labeled the tool of the 'lazy parent'. My husband and I used a dummy for my daughter when she was a baby and we found it a lifesaver. She was much more contented when she used a dummy, slept better, cried less, and suffered less wind. Once we started giving our daughter a dummy, we never looked back. This led me to wonder, with so many parents using dummies for their babies and raving about the effects, why is there such strong opposition from some parents to dummy use?

baby with dummy

Many people believe damage the teeth. While there is some evidence that dummy use can cause teeth to tip forward towards the lip, this is rare and only happens when dummy use is constant and prolonged. Evidence also found that these effects are reversible after a few months of the dummy being taken out. Milk teeth will fall out anyway, so dummies won't damage a baby's permanent set of teeth. Some people worry that dummies might interfere with speech development. This can happen if a baby uses a dummy after the age of 12 months, which is a crucial age for speech development, and if they use their dummy for prolonged periods of time. As long as you either wean your baby off their dummy by 12 months, or restrict their dummy use to certain times, their speech development won't be affected. Speech and teeth problems can also be caused by thumb sucking, which is a harder habit to break than using a dummy.

Ignoring your baby's needs?

The most pervasive objection to dummy use from parents that I've encountered is that dummy-wielding parents use it as a way to stop their baby crying. This argument has a valid point, as if parents use dummies whenever their baby starts to cry, they aren't addressing the source of the baby's discontent. Dummies should never be given to babies as a first recourse, and no responsible parent would give their baby a dummy without first checking what is causing the crying. If you have checked your baby for all possible reasons for being upset, such as hunger, thirst, having a wet or dirty nappy, discomfort, loneliness, tiredness, overstimulation, fear, wind, illness, being too cold or too hot etc.), and you come to the conclusion they just want to suckle, not for food but for comfort, then you shouldn't feel guilty about using a dummy.

I must admit I occasionally felt self-conscious when I gave my daughter her dummy in public, and like the other mothers I knew, I tried to resist using a dummy. Experts recommend not using dummies for the first 8 weeks if you are trying to establish breastfeeding, but at the 8 week mark, like many of the mum friends, I gave my daughter a dummy and it instantly soothed her. It was clear she just wanted to suckle. Some babies are more 'sucky' that others, which is when they want to suckle, not for food but to satisfy their rooting reflex. Sucky babies often feed excessively, and then feel uncomfortably full, suffer wind and often vomit up the excess milk. Such was the extent of the collective appreciation of dummies in my new mum group that when one mother said 'we don't want to use a dummy for our son', she was met with a shocked silence, and a 'but why ever not?' style round of questioning.

Weaning off the dummy

When you introduce your child to a dummy however, you know that one day you'll have to go through the weaning them off it process. This can be difficult for some parents and their babies, and is a reason some parents don't want to get their baby accustomed to having a dummy. For my husband and I, weaning our 12 month old daughter off her dummy proved relatively pain free. We went cold turkey, and after two nights of crying for an hour before going to sleep, my pint-sized dummy addict was reformed and didn't have any interest in her dummy after that. Other parents I know gradually weaned their babies off dummies by limiting the time they were allowed their dummy.

A personal decision

Whether you decide to give your baby a dummy or not is a personal decision, and it's for each parent to decide for themselves whether they want to use one to help soothe their baby. Parents shouldn't feel judged for giving their babies dummies, (or for not giving them a dummy). But if you do decide to use a dummy, rest assured that as long as you use it sensibly, it won't cause any damage to your child's teeth, speech development or emotional needs. It's simply a matter of choice whether you use it or not.

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