Babies for Dummies! Soothers & Pacifiers – To Do or Not To Do…

Dummy, Pacifier, Soother

My oldest boy had his first suck on a dummy at two days old.  Just arrived home from hospital, Daddy thought nothing of soothing our crying newborn by giving him a pacifier.  I have to admit, I wasn’t pleased when I saw, and would rather he woke me so I could feed our little one.  But Daddy thought he was doing the right thing by letting me sleep after I had endured a gruelling 42 hour labour.

Afterwards, I did have some difficulty getting baby to feed on the breast, and quickly decided to give the dummy a rest until he was used to breastfeeding.  I felt it was right at about 2 weeks.  Apart from the usual problems of soreness for me, baby then had little difficulty switching between the two.

To be honest though, it wasn’t until I stopped breastfeeding at nine months that my firstborns love affair with the dummy really gained momentum.  I have found the same thing with baby number two.  We introduced the dummy sparingly at two weeks. He too, could take it or leave it (except when going to sleep) until I stopped breastfeeding at 12 months.  Then it was a battle to keep it out of his mouth.  Babies do like to be soothed by a sucking action.  And if your breast is not providing it – then the dummy, or a thumb or fingers will be substituted.  It’s a rare baby that does not need to be soothed in this way.

To give baby a dummy or not is a decision we make usually before baby comes along.  The reasons against are valid and logical.  It is stated by health professionals that:

  1. If introduced too early, dummies can interfere with breastfeeding – as different sucking actions are required for each.  (From experience, I would agree with this point.)
  2. You may let your baby suck on the dummy when he or she really wants a feed.
  3. This can cause your breasts to be under stimulated and produce less milk.
  4. Sucking for long periods can result in middle-ear infections.  Something to do with bacteria getting from babies mouth into his/her ear tubes.
  5. Unclean or damaged dummies can cause problems such as tummy upsets, diarrhoea and chest infections.
  6. If used for older toddlers, can cause problems with the way teeth grow or the mouth develops.
  7. If used constantly soothers can interfere with the way speech develops.

Faced with this list it is understandable that many parents would be fierce anti-dummy proponents.  But I can tell you, it is very difficult to resist giving in when faced, again, with a screaming baby at 3 o’clock in the morning.  All you desperately want is for him or her (and you) to have some sleep.

I would prefer it if my babies didn’t use a dummy.  But I believe, as with most aspects of parenting, that common sense must prevail.  Babies need to suck on something, and if you don’t provide a dummy, then a thumb, fingers, cloth, toy or blanket will be substituted.  I agree that the arguments listed above can be equally applied to any of these items.  But the advantage at least of dummies is that they are easily cleaned and easily interchangeable.

A dummy calms and soothes a distressed baby.  In my experience, if you follow a few simple steps then using a pacifier need not be a terrible process.  (And it’s nearly always non-parents that look down their noses and infer lazy parenting!)

  1. Keep dummies as clean as possible.  Sterilise regularly.  Fluff and hair always gets trapped between the teat and the mouth guard!
  2. Inspect regularly, and discard at the first sign of cracks etc.
  3. It is recommended that you use a ‘flat’ dummy to help  baby use a sucking action that is closer to the feeding action.
  4. There is some evidence that using an orthopaedic dummy will better help babies developing mouth.
  5. Don’t coat the teat in sweet foods.  BAD for babies teeth and gums.
  6. And lastly, don’t let baby have the soother constantly.  Remember to take it out!  I try to only use one when my little one is falling to sleep, or when I know he might be unsettled, such as going to unfamiliar places or visiting unfamiliar people.  That way I hope it becomes less of a habit for him.
Lastly.  How to wean your baby/toddler off a dummy.  Here is my advice.
We went ‘cold turkey’ with my eldest when he was two.  I felt he was too old now to need a dummy.  His second birthday was ‘D’ for Dummy day!
  • Firstly we primed him for about a week before.  Letting him know that on his birthday he would be old enough not to need his ‘Dum Dum’ anymore.
  • His favourite thing in the whole world was the ritual of the bin men emptying our bins.  We decided to use this as the official dummy ridding ceremony.  And as luck would have it, his birthday fell on bin day!
  • The morning of, he helped us gather up all his dummies (every last one) and we put them into a container.
  • We waited outside next to our bin with the container which he held and watched the bin men approach.
  • As they came to collect our bin, I asked if our son could empty his ‘rubbish’ into our bin.  Which he then did.
  • Our son watched as the bin men whisked our bin, containing his dummies, to the bin truck.  He was wide eyed as he saw the contents emptied into the truck.
  • We waved goodbye to his dummies as the bin truck took them away.
Daddy was apprehensive and unbeknownst to me me, had secreted a dummy away in his sock draw.  We never needed it though.  Our son asked several times over the next few days if the bin men had his dummies.  He often explained to others that the bin men had taken his dummies.  But after a week or two he stopped mentioning it.  And he never asked for his dummy.  I have to admit, that I was surprised at how well it went.  But I think success lay in the preparation and the style in which the dummies went.
If you decide to stop using a dummy and your child is younger, I would probably recommend a gradual weaning process. Being younger, they may not comprehend a cold turkey approach.
Whether you decide ‘To Do or Not To Do, remember it is your child’s wellbeing that is the most important, not any grandiose principles that you may hold.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.


© 2012 Simone L Woods





My Heartfelt Prayer For My Babies – Every Day

My babiesDear Universe,

Thank you, thank you with all my heart for my beautiful babies.  They bring me such joy; I never knew such overpowering love could exist for me.  I’m so grateful.  Grateful with all my heart, thank you.

With every fibre and every bone in my body thank you for keeping them safe when I have dropped the ball.  Like the time Lucas was lost at the seaside.  Or when we were all up in the house and Lucas fell in the pool.  I thank you for Marc pulling him out.  I thank Marc again.  Thank god for you Marc.

Please don’t let the nightmares stop. They remind me to keep better watch.

And please (wink), can we win a bit of money on the Lotto?  Just enough to do the extension.  Nick would be so happy.

I’m grateful every day.


Don’t forget to enjoy your day.


Anyone Who Has Lost A Child Longs To Still Speak Their Name

Christmas must be an especially emotional time for those couples that have lost a child.  I was deeply moved when I read this touching post by Kate Ellis.  Kate is a professional photographer and has written this wonderful post about Heartfelt, an organisation for which she volunteers her photographic skills.


Heartfelt is a volunteer organisation of professional photographers, giving the gift of photographic memories to parents who have experienced stillbirth, premature births, and seriously or terminally ill children.

by  on december 6, 2013 in babies

-I am sharing this post with the blessing of Daniel and Victoria.

“Anyone who has lost a child longs to still speak their name, to see it written down, especially by someone else, is an even greater acknowledgement ….”

~ Victoria . Mum to Ethan & Xavier.


18 months ago, I stepped tentatively into a room full of grief, and love, and heartache.

I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Kate, I’m a Heartfelt photographer. I’m so sorry for your loss”

The room is dark and quiet. In the usual see-through rectangle crib-on-wheels, lies a little bundle. Still.

Smiling at this beautiful bundle, I say “Hello, Ethan”.

“He is perfect”. Mum and Dad nod. Dazed. Shattered beyond measure. I can’t even imagine. I photograph.


This is not a journey I have traveled myself. There but for the grace of Mother Nature, go I.

Perhaps that’s why I can do this?

Ethan’s little body is held snuggly by Mum. Then by Dad. I photograph. Lump in throat. Now is not the time, Kate.


The fragility of Ethan’s tiny body, the way he needs to be held, is something no parent should ever have to learn.

The immense bravery in that little room. Mum and Dad hold each other, as they hold their little boy. Heavy sobs. I photograph.


The click of my shutter rings loudly. Too loudly.

I pack my bag, pop it over my shoulder.

“Goodbye Ethan”

Outside the sun shines. Cruelly. A smack in the face that life goes on.  The most precious of precious cargo, in the shape of an insignificant 8 gig CF card, sits in my pocket. I don’t put it in the camera bag. That could be stolen. In my pocket, it feels safe. Ethan feels safe.


Xavier was born on the third day of August, 2013.

Beautiful. Perfect.




A tiny round silver pendant hangs on a chain around Victoria’s neck. Two tiny footprints. Ethan is always there.

During Xavier’s photo session, we chat a little about Ethan. Now a big brother to little Xavier.

Words like “Yes, he’s perfect. And alive”, replace the usual chit chat about milk dots, and reflux. These parents know the spectrum of emotions these little people bring with them, but thankfully most of us only feel them in our nightmares.


On the outside, they hold their babe no closer than any other parent, but there is a different feeling in the studio today.

A sense of relief. A celebration.

A feeling of hope.

I’m so happy to hear that Victoria & Daniel have their pictures of Ethan on their wall. They are not hidden away. Ethan will not be forgotten.

Slowly but surely the Western cultural norms of hiding from death (from life?) seem to be changing. The images of Ethan are gentle, subtle. They hold unimaginable grief, and every parents fear, but they are of a little boy who kicked his mumma for 9 months. Wriggled and squirmed while dad held his hand on the growing belly. Hopes and dreams grew as he did. They are pictures of a tiny boy, who died before he was born.

He now he graces the walls, along with images of Xavier – brothers forever.


The 5th December is International Volunteers Day.

Not by any plan, I’m sure, I opened a little square envelope yesterday. Of all days.

It reads:

“Dear Kate,

How can we ever thank you for giving us our most treasured possessions – the photos of our boys, Xavier and especially our angel Ethan. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough.

Our Heartfelt photos of Ethan are proudly displayed in our house and are the last thing we look at before we go to sleep.

As time goes on we worry about forgetting what he looked like, I don’t know what we’d do without them. They make our loss more bearable somehow. It lets us remember more clearly the two days we had with our precious boy before we had to say goodbye for good.

Thank you so much for the beautiful volunteer work you do.

Best wishes,

Victoria, Daniel & Xavier”

And I cried. Big heavy tears.



Those tears carried the memories of the (far too many) dark, quiet, grief filled rooms I have walked into over the years as a Heartfelt photographer. They carried the thoughts of the (far too many) parents with silver pendants, chains, old Polaroid images, stamped feet and hand prints on cardboard, birth and death certificates which carry the same date … the parents with the precious reminders of their little people they carry in their hearts, but not in their arms.

And I knew it was time to write.


This story and images are shared with permission from Daniel & Victoria. I wrote to thank them for the honor of capturing those memories for them. For allowing me into the darkness of that room. At their darkest hour. And for their beautiful card.

Victoria wrote back  “I knew I had to write  to you after a conversation with a stranger ..  A lady, perhaps in her late 60′s, asked if Xavier was my first baby to which I replied as usual ‘no, he is my second, unfortunately my first boy was stillborn 18 months ago’. She went on to tell me that she had lost her first son at birth too, but she had not been allowed to see him or hold him. This is completely heartbreaking. It was then I realised how incredibly lucky we were, not only to get to meet our son and hold him, but to also to have photos taken. Professional photos. Which were then given to us for free! We are so incredibly grateful to have photos we can display in the house that show everyone – YES our baby was real! Yes we loved him as much as if he had been born alive and love him as much as we do his living brother”



I write this post to share Ethan’s story. I write this post because, sometimes the “why would you want to do that?” questions are hard to answer. I write this post for you to share with your contacts. With your friends. Your family. The more Heartfelt is shared within the community, the more parents will have the chance to ask for a photographer to come to them, if they choose. Or, as quite often is the case, the loved ones of grieving parents make that difficult phone call.

I write this post because “Anyone who has lost a child longs to still speak their name, to see it written down, especially by someone else, is an even greater acknowledgement ….

With heavy tears, thanks for reading.


Kate Ellis Photographer