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  • Writer's pictureDr Andy Raffles

Is it Safe To Give My Baby A Dummy?

I am uncertain as to whether to use a dummy/pacifier/soother and have heard so much conflicting advice? Are they safe and when can I use one and when to stop using one?

This is a very personal question, as so much individual choice, as well as family practices, are involved.

As a ‘bottom’ line, dummies/pacifiers/soothers are generally safe and effective. They may even be beneficial in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when used during sleep periods. They should not be introduced before breastfeeding has been established, which is around 4-6 weeks of age, and when the early problems associated with breastfeeding have been resolved, such as soreness of mum’s nipples, tongue tie, etc. Make sure you get help if you need it. Once breastfeeding is established, introducing a dummy should not have a negative effect.

Some families prefer to use a dummy/pacifier/soother as babies may find sucking a soothing thing to do.

Most designs available are orthodontic – which is designed to fit into a baby’s mouth and should not affect the developing teeth. The majority of designs available are no longer made of latex but use silicone or other polymer material which are extensively tested for safety and free of contaminants. One-piece designs are now almost the only ones available – as the risk of them becoming a choking hazard is reduced to almost nil. You shouldn’t attach the dummy/pacifier/soother to your baby with a cord as this can become tangled around the baby, and also it is not advisable to dip the dummy/pacifier/soother in honey or similar.

Not all babies like using a dummy/pacifier/soother. If your baby repeatedly refuses a dummy, do not force them to take it. Some studies have suggested that finger or thumb-sucking may give a similar benefit in respect of the reduction in risk of SIDS, but even if your baby does not do this, following other safer sleep advice such as not smoking and placing your baby to sleep on their back will still significantly lower their chance of SIDS.

Regular dummy/pacifier/soother use at sleep time appears to be the best way to use a dummy. This means offering your baby a dummy each time you put them down for sleep, day or night. You and your baby will also find it easier to have a regular sleep routine. If the dummy falls out of your baby’s mouth during sleep, there is no need to put it back in.

If you have chosen to use a dummy, it should be gently withdrawn between 6 and 12 months, to avoid possible longer-term problems associated with dummy use (such as ear infections or misalignment of teeth). These problems have not been found below the age of one year.

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