The dummy debate: Pros and cons
Dummies: Should we or shouldn’t we use them for our baby?
The issue is far from black and white. You’ll hear parents raving about dummies or reviling them. We look at the arguments over the pros and cons of dummies.
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.