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Dummies for babies

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

It’s an endless debate about whether dummies (or pacifiers) are good or bad for your baby.

There are a few hard and fast rules, but other than that, it’s up to you.

There’s evidence in the first few weeks that dummies can bring breastfeeding to a close early, as baby is just getting used to the sucking action needed for feeding, and mum’s milk supply. Once breastfeeding is established, the general advice is that dummies can be introduced, as it doesn’t cause the same level of disruption.

Let’s talk you through the pros and cons of dummies.

What are the advantages of dummies?

Dummies can help soothe your unsettled baby and help them fall asleep - hence the name pacifier. They can also offer convenience for a parent in trying to settle baby.

There is some evidence that dummies can prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) - it’s not clear exactly how, and other factors may be a play such as a dummy means a baby is less likely to roll onto their fronts or get covered by blankets. Parents may also be more attentive when there is a dummy involved.

What are the disadvantages of dummies?

If started too early, dummies can affect baby’s ability to breastfeed and therefore the milk supply, as the baby spends time sucking elsewhere, reducing milk production and affecting baby's feeding and potential weight gain.

It can also affect the way a baby attaches to the breast, as they get used to sucking a dummy.

Dummies can be a source of infection as they get dropped and come into contact with lots of different surfaces.

Prolonged use of a dummy can also affect how baby’s teeth grow, risking malalignment and overbite. You can buy orthodontic dummies that aim to prevent this. Dummies can also prevent them from making sounds and forming words, which can have a knock-on effect on speech development if dummy use is prolonged.

It is strongly recommended to stop using dummies well before the age of 3, but – as parents and baby become reliant on the dummy – it is significantly harder to stop dummy use if it’s continued beyond the age of 6 months.  

How can I stop my baby using the dummy?

Your baby or child will benefit from learning how to self-soothe to sleep, without the use of the dummy. So, consider different ways to soothe your child – perhaps increasing the amount of skin-skin contact, hugging, or nursing your child more frequently.

You may decide to go completely cold turkey if you think your child can handle this but it is best not to choose a time when baby is unwell or there is a lot of change going on. If you want a slower approach, restricting usage to certain times of the day may be a good way to phase them out.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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