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





4 thoughts on “Babies for Dummies! Soothers & Pacifiers – To Do or Not To Do…

  1. My husband and I were totally ignorant of all things involving babies and parenting when our three children were born. We had twins to begin with. We never gave dummies a thought and no-one (grandparents, aunts) mentioned them–so they were never introduced into the household. It might have been a different story if any of them were unsettled but from the outset they were all very contented. It’s only now, when I see the difficulties those now grown-up children are having with their own babies that I realise how incredibly lucky (if that’s the right word) we were. But I imagine some kind soul would have suggested dummies if we had looked frazzled! It astounds and heartens me to see how knowledgeable and prepared new parents are today.

    • Great thoughts Alana. Knowledge certainly is a empowering and reassuring thing to have when experiencing pregnancy and parenting, especially for the first time. Part of the reason I started up this blog…… Thank you for your comments.

    • Hi Mary, thanks for your comments. Yes, I have an upcoming post entitled ‘How I was a better parent before I had children’. All about my own ‘grandiose principles’! Got to love them – but we lose them quickly!

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