Just like almost anything baby related, opinions are split on whether using a dummy is good or bad. One the one hand, you’ve heard that dummies are incredibly soothing and comforting to a baby, and will stop them crying as much. On the other hand, you’ve heard that it may cause nipple confusion, interfere with nursing and even lead to childhood orthodontics.
If you find yourself asking “Should I use a dummy?”, make sure you’ve had a look at the pros and cons to help you decide what is best for you and your little one.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Dummy?
Dummies are the go-to gadget for many parents when soothing their crying baby. In fact, non-nutritive sucking helps soothe infants and toddlers and can calm or reboot the nervous system.
Additionally, in some cases, babies with a strong sucking reflex can benefit from dummies. Infants with a strong sucking reflex — who don’t use a dummy — have a tendency to be overfed, which may not be healthy. A dummy allows the baby to be satisfied without eating, and in some cases, doctors might introduce one if the baby is gaining too much weight.
What Are the Drawbacks of Using a Dummy?
Prolonged dummy use has a high likelihood of affecting the jaw and bone structure of the child, resulting in open or crossbites. How babies suck their dummy may be a greater contributing factor to teeth development. Those who more aggressively suck their dummies — as opposed more passively sucking or holding it in their mouth — may be more prone to an open or crossbite in the future. However, a large percentage of the distortion self-corrects when the dummy habit is over. In addition, regardless of dummy use, many children end up needing orthodontic correction — so you can’t say that those children wouldn’t have needed braces had they not used a dummy.
Dummies can contribute to delayed speech, speech impediments and articulation problems — particularly when used during play and socialisation time — as they try to talk around the dummy or make fewer attempts to talk altogether. Other drawbacks include the increased spread of germs, parental frustration when searching for misplaced dummies — especially if it’s the only way to soothe your little one — and difficulty weaning when it’s time to pull the plug.
To gently begin the transition away from the dummy, set guidelines to limit use such as only during nap time, bedtime or in the car and gradually limiting from there. Begin such restrictions between ages 15-18 months when the child is more flexible. After 2 years old, they are more developmentally black and white and have difficulty understanding why they can have it sometimes and not others, in which case, going cold turkey and taking it away entirely may be easier for them to comprehend.
Will It Interfere With Nursing?
Perhaps the most widely debated question is whether dummy use causes nipple confusion and hurts the nursing relationship. Though some people are very anti-dummy, there is some support that it can actually improve nursing. With appropriate use and guidance from a lactation consultant, pediatrician or occupational therapist, dummies can be used to increase jaw strength and coordination to increase nursing and improve breastfeeding. It is, however recommended that dummy use is limited until nursing is well-established and birth weight is regained. The ideal window for introduction is between two and four weeks. If you wait too long, the baby will likely refuse the dummy. To support nursing, always offer the breast first and then the dummy if the breast is rejected — never use the dummy to delay a feeding.
What Type of Dummy Should You Use?
If you make the decision to use a dummy, there are two types of dummies to consider: those that are rounded and more closely resemble the nipple, and orthodontic ones that are flatter in shape. Start with the more natural nipple if you’re breastfeeding; if you’re bottle-feeding, most bottle brands offer a dummy that matches their feeding system, so it’s best to elect for that one. You should change the dummy size as your child ages, as children may choke on dummies that are too small for them. Additionally, use an orthodontic one once your baby gets their first teeth, as round ones may be more likely to crack under the stress of teeth. Whatever type you choose, it’s important to be diligent and to immediately discard and replace dummies showing signs of wear.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.