Pro’s and Con’s of Dummies….
Dummies are a great sleep prop early on – I have used a dummy for all 3 of my children in the early days and would have been lost without one.
I was your classic mum who sent her husband to buy a dummy at 10pm on day 6 of having my first baby...... she was crying, she wasn't hungry, she wouldn't sleep and I needed to settle her!
Now I give them as baby shower gifts and smile when the expectant mother tells me she is “anti dummies”.
You would think by the time I had my third baby I would have learnt my lesson, but I forgot to pack a dummy:
I called my husband in tears at 2am on day 3 and made him promise to bring the dummy to the hospital – this baby wanted to suck and I needed a nap! 48 hours of labour, followed by 2 days of feeding non stop, and very little sleep by either of us.... I was desperate.
I made the decision to allow my husband to pop the dummy in baby and carry him around keeping him happy and quiet while I napped, or I truly felt I would pass out.
There are 2 ways to use a dummy with a newborn.
You can use them as a backup option or something to phase out, firstly try to settle your baby to sleep in their cot or bassinet, (try the shush pat if you're stuck) if 20 minutes has passed and your baby under 12 weeks is not settling to sleep, either offer them a top up feed and try again, or move to using a dummy.
This gives you time to learn how to use the shush pat, but also an option to assist you if your baby just won't sleep.
Alternatively..... settle them in your arms with the dummy. Once they are drowsy see if they will settle in their bed with you patting and holding the dummy in, or just see if they're stay asleep with the dummy and no movement.
Some babies are unicorn babies and will happily take a dummy at the start of a nap and happily go off to sleep it won’t slip out and they won’t squawk for you to come and replace the dummy, they will take it at 7pm and sleep until they are hungry.
Count your blessings
Other babies the dummy will slip in and out 4-10 times as you try to get them off to sleep, you will dream about using duct tape to hold it in, they will wake every 45 minutes throughout the day crying for their lost dummy – or at night every 2 hours you will be leaning over to pop that dummy back in…..
If this is you? The dummy has to go
If you are only using the dummy as a backup option, I like to have phased this out by 12 weeks. Dummies used even intermittently after 12 weeks very easily become a deep rooted sleep association. A great way to ensure your baby rejects the dummy after 12 weeks is to not buy the bigger size up after you use a newborn dummy.
Learn how to teach your baby to self settle after using a dummy. -- > Get my 3-8 month sleep and feed guide
Keeping the dummy
If you are happy using a dummy and wish to teach your baby to take the dummy, try tugging gently on the dummy as your baby sucks, this will teach him to suck harder as the dummy begins to fall out when he drifts off.
Stay with him and do this for 10-15 minutes at the start of naps for a couple of days.
If you get to 5/6 months and your baby is still using a dummy and is learning how to replace the dummy himself a great investment is a sleepytot or try sewing little tails on your babies dummies from an old muslin swaddle to make it easy for him to find and replace his dummy at night.
Start to hand it to your baby to replace himself, if you always pop it in his mouth he will never learn to do it himself.
Can you wean a dummy?
If you have reached the point where you want to get rid of the dummy as it is not helping you or your baby get better sleep, then unfortunately there is not “weaning” from a dummy.
Using a dummy to calm your baby and then expect them to settle with no dummy is confusing.
Or using it for one nap and not the next – also confusing.
The best thing you can do is clear your diary for three days while you establish a new settling ritual in place of the dummy.
You are creating a disassociation between sleep and the dummy, ideally working on self settling.
When I don't like dummies.....
I worry when people are using dummies to encourage small babies, or babies who are not gaining weight to sleep for long spells at night.
Night feeds are important in the early weeks in establishing and maintaining good milk supply.
I appreciate as a new mum you are exhausted, but if your baby has been asleep for 3 hours and wakes and you pop the dummy in to get 40 minutes more sleep, chances are your baby was hungry and will not go back to sleep – they will be quiet sucking away, but they won’t sleep well.
Then when they finally cry out for food again, they are almost over tired and only take a small feed – and then wake again 1-2 hours later, hungry again.
Don’t try to cut a feed short by using a dummy unless your Doctor or Midwife or Lactation consultant advises this. Allow your baby to take a full feed and decide when they are full.
Try to use the dummy for settling to sleep, not in lieu of a feed.
Reflux and dummies
Some reflux babies rely heavily on dummies to get to sleep as the production of saliva lowers the pH in the stomach and constant sucking helps them not physically reflux and wake up.
BUT if you can rock your reflux baby to sleep, or walk them to sleep then chances are they don’t NEED the dummy.
They probably like the dummy – but if neither of you are getting quality sleep, don’t be afraid to take the dummy off a reflux baby, and settle them with some other strategy, especially once the reflux is under control with age or medication.
It is very common for parents to come to us for help with self setting once their baby no longer has reflux, or medication has it under control.
Reflux babies often have spent a large part of their newborn stage crying in pain, this effects their temperament and can affect which sleep training techniques will work.
I often hear my baby will go from zero to one hundred very quickly, this is super common for babies who used to suffer from reflux.
SIDS and dummies
Dummies lower the rates of SIDS in babies. Scientists believe due to the fact that the constant sucking means babies don’t go into a deep deep sleep – this can help prevent SIDS.
Wind and dummies:
Dummies can help your baby burp!
The downward pressure of the dummy on the tongue can help a baby release a burp.
It also relaxes your baby, maybe the wind bubble is hurting their tummy and making them tense up, a relaxed baby, burps much more easily. If you struggling to burp your baby, try holding a dummy in as you burp them.
Dummies/Pacifiers, what ever your culture calls them.
They definitely have their place as a settling tool, a relaxing tool, and a sleep tool! But they also are responsible for a lot of broken sleep for older babies, and a lot of tired parents who are doing the dummy run multiple times a night.
Your dentist would rather your baby never had a dummy. I just encourage you to look at your dummy objectively.
Is your baby sleeping well? Don’t fix what aint broke!
Is your baby still a newborn? Plenty of time to reduce down the dummy dependency.
Is your baby old enough to find and replace their dummy? Teach them!
Is the dummy the reason neither of you are getting any sleep? Ditch it!
Need help with self settling, better sleep and dummies?
Our 9-18 month sleep guide has instructions for teaching babies old enough to find and replace their dummy to sleep like champs!
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
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Dummies come with a silicon or rubber teat and are also available in latex, in cherry shapes or flatter orthodontic style dummies which are shaped to encourage your baby to suck in the same style required for good breastfeeding. Be sure to choose an age-appropriate dummy so that a dummy brings your baby as much comfort as possible without creating any dental damage.