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The dummy debate: Pros and cons


WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Deciding whether to give a baby a dummy remains a hotly debated topic.

There are good reasons both for and against, so it all comes down to parents' choice. We look at the facts in the dummy debate.

The pros: A few reasons to use a dummy

There are many good reasons to use dummies -- just ask any parent who’s managed to get a moment of peace with the judicious use of one. But a bit of peace isn’t the only plus. Others include:

  • Protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Department of Health advises that giving your baby a dummy at the start of any sleep period may reduce the risk of SIDS. Use the dummy when putting baby down to sleep - don't put it back in baby's mouth once he's already asleep.
  • Helping babies pacify themselves. Infants need ways to help soothe themselves and a dummy can be a source of comfort for a crying or colicky baby.
  • It satisfies the suck reflex. Some babies have a need to suck that exceeds the time they get on the bottle or breast. For these infants, a dummy can meet this very real need.
  • Easier weaning. When you’re ready for a child to stop, it’s much easier to wean them from a dummy than off their thumb.

 

Cons: Reasons to avoid a dummy

While some parents hope to avoid dummies altogether, many experts don't think that’s necessary. Yet there are a few issues to watch for when using a dummy:

  • Research has suggested that there may be a link between use of a dummy and recurrent ear infections in young children. Researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but suspect it may be due to a change in pressure between the middle ear and upper throat. The Department of Health advises that parents who give their child a dummy should not be overly concerned by these research findings. It was not clear, it notes, whether parents participating in the research had a tendency to use dummies to soothe young children who were prone to recurrent ear infections.
  • If a dummy is introduced too early, there’s the risk of nipple confusion for a baby who’s just learning to suckle. When a baby is being breastfed, it’s best not to give a dummy until breastfeeding is well established, usually at about one month old.
  • Parents can mistakenly offer a dummy when the baby really needs nutrition-based sucking, such as a breast or bottle.

Babies who are overzealous suckers, or who use a dummy for long periods, may have problems as their teeth grow and develop. Overuse of a dummy can also hinder speech development, which is why it’s recommended that you try to limit the times your baby uses a dummy, and to wean your baby off the dummy completely by the age of one.

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