One of the dilemmas parents face is whether they should introduce a dummy to their newborn baby or not. There is no right or wrong answer for this, this is entirely up to you, however there are some things that may help you make your decision.
Firstly, some babies will be particularly “sucky” babies, where they are very comforted by the use of a dummy. One of Dr Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for newborn settling, is Sucking, so in conjunction with other S’s, this can really help your child settle. On the other hand, some babies aren’t too fussed by a dummy, and don’t appear overly interested in it. They may be easily settled with the other 5 S’s. You can try and encourage more dummy sucking by gently tugging on it, as this may prompt your baby to keep sucking. However if they just don’t want to, then there is no need to persist, as the whole idea of the dummy is to help calm a newborn, and if they don’t want to suck on it, they will only get more upset if you keep putting something in their mouth they don’t want.
Secondly, dummies can be really helpful for babies with reflux, as it is believed the action of sucking and swallowing can help counteract the rising of acidic stomach contents. So if your baby has reflux, then using a dummy may assist.
Thirdly, some research reports that use of dummies reduces the risk of SIDS. However, safe sleep practices is the biggest reduction factor in SIDS, not the dummy alone.
If you do decide to use a dummy, you will also need to make a conscious choice about when to lose the dummy. After about 12 weeks, the dummy doesn’t really have its soothing effect like it does for a newborn, but rather will become more of an association for sleep. Read more here about sleep associations. If your child keeps a dummy beyond 4months (after their sleep cycles have matured) every time they wake after a sleep cycle, you will need to put the dummy back in their mouth. This could mean every 45min during the day, and every 2hours overnight. Your baby does not have the ability to find and replace their own dummy until 7/8months of age. So consider whether you should drop the dummy at 4months cold turkey or persevere for several months doing dummy runs.
If you have an older baby or toddler, I highly encourage you to keep the dummy until your child is at least 2.5-3 years of age, as any time before this is really challenging and you will have a lot of disrupted night’s sleep. After this age, your child has the ability to understand things such as the “dummy fairy”, or trading it in for a toy and will make the transition a lot more seamless.
A number of parents have come to me thinking that a dummy may be the cause of their child’s sleep problems. Yes sometimes it is, but it is also only one piece of the sleep puzzle. If you are having trouble with sleep in your house, then I can help make all the pieces of the puzzle fit, and get things back in order.