Dummy debates

Can it be true that sucking a dummy is harmful?

The dummy debate is one of the most divisive issues that exist in the childcare arena. The positions for and against the use of dummies are equally passionate. We present you with all the arguments so you can make up your own mind.

On one hand there is no doubt that some babies derive intense comfort from sucking. If a dummy is not provided, many babies will instinctively resort to sucking their own fingers. Research has shown that it is more difficult to wean a child from sucking a thumb than a dummy. Birth can be a shocking experience for many babies, and it would be harsh to deprive babies who are struggling to adapt of the comfort of sucking. Used wisely, the dummy can be a bonus in many situations, as long is care is taken to ensure that baby is comforted with hugs and other methods, not only plonking the dummy in!

However, the arguments against dummies are equally compelling. Babies that have poor sucking skills or are not strong, may tire themselves so while sucking a dummy so that their feeding is compromised. In addition, since the sucking action employed with a dummy is completely different to the action of breastfeeding, small babies may become confused and fail to feed properly. Beyond this risk is the possibility that teeth development could be affected by constant sucking, and the possibility of increased ear infections. The difficulty of weaning toddlers from their sucking habits, which may be seen as antisocial as they get older, can be considerable. Current thinking is that ideally a baby should be weaned off the dummy by the child’s first birthday. Cruel as it seems, the best way is to get rid of the dummy all together and to put up with a few unhappy days.

Since sucking a dummy reduces the amount of babbling that a baby does, this can affect speech development. Therefore it is important to take time to chat with your little baby, first removing the dummy so that baby can reply! Also, do not use the dummy for every unhappy situation. Try other ways to comfort the baby and keep the dummy as the last resort!

Having said this, many babies have combined dummy and feeding without any problems, and have been weaned with the minimum of problems.

Probably the best judge of the situation, once again, is you. If your baby is struggling to feed and gain weight, it might be wise to reduce or eliminate dummy use to see if feeding improves. However if you have a generally contented baby who occasionally derives comfort from extra sucking, then there should be no problem.

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*Important : The information provided is for information purposes only. No medical diagnosis or prescription can be inferred or is implied. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

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