Is using a dummy bad for my baby?

All parents have heard about dummies. Some people say they are amazing and helpful, others say they are terrible on so many levels. So what do you do? Should you use one? Well, in my experience, dummies can be both good and bad… So who’s confused?

The dummy is also known as your “frenemy”. You love it at times but you can also hate it! It can be great for getting your young baby to fall asleep without too much crying or fuss. Some babies really like to suck and so sucking the dummy calms and settles them and when they are calm and settled they can go off to sleep without too much difficulty. It can also help get your baby back to sleep if they happen to be catnapping during the day and also when dealing with sleep regressions that cause extra waking overnight. So, in these instances, dummies are good.

Dummies can also be very helpful for babies who struggle with reflux or have tummy issues. Sucking the dummy can help soothe the tummy and settle the reflux, reducing the discomfort your baby might feel.

However, as with most sleep associations, as your baby grows so does their attachment to the dummy and eventually they may not be able to sleep without it. In some babies who love their dummies a lot, they will also wake a lot overnight because when the dummy falls out, they wake up and you end up getting up many, many times to pop that dummy back in. Argh!!

So here’s the big question…Should you start to use a dummy? I think it is best to deal with the situation at hand. If your baby likes having a dummy and is helping with the sleep, then go ahead and use it. But, as soon as that dummy becomes a problem and you are having to get up at night more than once to pop it back in your baby’s mouth, then it is time to go.

The sucking association is a very strong sleep association and can be caused by dummies, but it can also be caused by feeding to sleep. If a baby falls asleep sucking then when they come out of one sleep cycle and the dummy or breast or bottle is not in their mouth they will wake up and cry because they now feel they need to suck to go back to sleep.

At this point it would be a good idea to stop using it. Removing a dummy can be tricky but getting a baby used to sleeping with it can happen in as little as three days. I like to replace thee dummy with another kind of comforter so your baby feels like they have something to cuddle up to overnight.

Babies are so clever and they are able to change habit pretty quickly, but we need to be consistent so they learn the new habit without getting confused. If you decide to get rid of the dummy then you need to see it through. It is usually one hard night, where you may have to help your baby get to sleep initially and you may have to resettle then back to sleep overnight, but after a couple of nights without it, it won’t be remembered! Often the thought of taking away these sleep associations can be worse than actually doing it.

For some babies, they won’t become addicted to the sucking so you won’t have to remove it until they, and you, are ready.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.