Babies are born with a natural instinct to suckle. As well as making sure that they feed, it also provides feelings of comfort and security. That’s why using a dummy can work really well to help calm and comfort a baby.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s probably best to avoid offering your baby a dummy during the early stages as it can confuse your baby while they’re still learning to latch on to the breast. Breastfeeding may take a few weeks to get established, and you can find out more about breastfeeding here.
Not all babies like dummies, and if your baby refuses it, don’t force the issue, they will learn to soothe themselves; for example by sucking on their fists or fingers instead.
If you do decide to use a dummy, avoid using ones with cherry shaped teats as these eventually cause problems with how the teeth grow and develop. If your baby needs a dummy, there are ‘orthodontic’ soothers or dummies that reduce the risk of these problems.
Never dip your baby’s dummy or teething ring into fruit syrups, honey, fruit juices or anything containing sugars, particularly at bedtime. The harmful sugars and acids can attack your baby’s newly formed teeth and cause decay.
Never use a dummy with a neck cord or any other attachment either as these have safety risks and could cause strangulation.
When your baby is between six months and a year old, think about starting to reduce their dependency on the dummy. You can start by keeping dummies in the bedroom, and only offering them at sleep time. Once your baby’s a year old, stop using it altogether as overuse can affect speech as well as the way their teeth grow
You may have heard that using a dummy can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. Although regular use of a dummy whenever a baby is asleep has been associated with a lower risk, experts still don’t know why this is. Always use safer sleep advice by not smoking and placing your baby on their back to sleep; this is the best way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Some people also say that the use of dummies can reduce the risk of ear infections; although this hasn’t been proved. If your child has a raised temperature, seems to be in distress and you suspect an ear infection, make an appointment with your GP.
- The Lullaby Trust: Factsheet on dummies