I admit, before I became a parent, I had all these lofty ideas about how and what motherhood should look like and what my life was going to be.
And I admit, before I had kids, I kind of judged dummies.
Not out loud, hell no. But I was hell bent on not using them - ever.
My son was a steep learning curve, but nothing could prepare me for the arrival of my daughter.
Handed this bundle of baby that had an impressive set of lungs right from the get go - I was simultaneously in love and overwhelmed. I remember a moment when I hovered over my 2 month old daughter's bassinet, her wails filling the house - I was almost delirious with frustration. I had tried almost everything to try and soothe her - all the things the books told me to do, but nothing was working. In my hand, I held a dummy. My best friend has thoughtfully given a me a box of baby essentials as a baby shower gift with my son, one I took gratefully for all the things I knew I'd need, but the dummies had sat discarded in a corner.
Something in that sleep-deprived, anxiety-filled, exhausted hours of the night called me to it.
Desperate, I popped it in. Her little mouth latched on. Her cries stopped and almost immediately she fell asleep, her fist curled into a little ball.
Beside her, I was almost in tears. In the blissful silence that followed, I somehow felt like a failure for not being able to comfort her myself. I mean, come on, I had done this already, I should know what to do by now. (I had at that moment forgotten my first child, my son, refused a dummy and later a bottle.)
Guilt flooded over me.
The Great Dummy Debate
But while the undisturbed stretches of sleep soon convinced me that the dummy was the best invention man has ever made for new mums, I soon found that The Great Dummy Debate raged on in mothers groups and forums and online on Facebook with everyone having an opinion.
I've heard it creates nipple confusion. How do I take it away? Our parents never used one, so why would I? OMG, what if she is at SCHOOL still with a dummy?? Am I going to have to give up my child to pay for the dentist?? And then - Best thing I ever did.
Like any Google-savvy expectant mum, I had spent a lot of time researching the pros and cons of dummy use, amongst other things (including finding out what the longest record was for not pooping. What? I was curious). A few generations ago - dummies or pacifiers were common place and came with only a small warning of giving children an oral fixation. These days, on the other hand, all the information makes it so difficult for new parents to make a decision.
- Babies love to suck. Pediatric experts say that sucking is a natural reflex for babies - so much so that you often see them doing that even before they are born. It provides comfort - and babies find that inexplicable comfort on sucking on anything - it could be your finger, their own thumb or blanket.
- Further research found that dummies can be an easy and non-medicinal way to help comfort your child to ease pain and are even said to help alleviate the symptoms of colic and wind, when other techniques have not worked.
- There have also been some studies that show that dummies can help reduce SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Can help your baby learn to "self soothe"
- Giving a dummy (or bottle) too early can lead to nipple confusion when breastfeeding.
- The most common thing that dentists see, that extended use of a dummy can lead to an anterior open bite (where the top front teeth don't meet the bottom front teeth) or a cross bite (where the upper row of teeth, instead of hanging outside, hangs inside the lower teeth). But not all is bad news - if you're only using the dummy passively - i.e for naps and nighttime, there is may not be any dental effects at all. Most cases, kids who have dummies stop by the age of 5.
- One of the other things that came up when research was the connection between dummy use and ear infections. With prolonged use - more than five hours a day - that can lead to chronic ear infections
- Again, with prolonged use, it can lead to speech delays.
Don't force a dummy if your baby doesn't want it
Don't use the dummy to replace or delay feeds
Don't give a dummy until breast/bottle feeding has been well established
Don't tie dummies around your baby's neck or to the cot/bassinet
Don't dip the dummy in anything sweet
Don't use the dummy as a "silencer" to quieten your baby's babbling, which encourage speech.
Find a dummy that is BPA free, has ventilation holes to permit air passage and ideally has an orthodontic, symmetrical nipple which will not disturb the natural development of baby’s palate, teeth and gums
Keep dummies cleaned and sterilised regularly, as you would bottles
Check dummies frequently for damage and replace often as cracked nipples trap germs.
Set boundaries to when you offer the dummy - use it for soothing purposes and for short periods of time
Speaking from experience
I took a quick survey from mums on our Facebook page and it turns out that most people made the decision to use or not use the dummy based on what was happening at that moment - and what worked for one child, didn't necessarily work for the other.
Laura, mum of 11-month-old Emilia, decided not to give her a dummy at all. "I had heard the warnings of nipple confusion and breastfeeding was really important to me. I have to admit as well, it was influenced by seeing friends who had given their babies dummies and now were struggling to wean them off it. I think one took close to a year to for their child to be fully weaned from it".
This was a big concern for me as well. For someone who wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible, and knowing how hard that journey had been for me - I didn't want anything to come in the way of that. What I learned was that dummies require a different sucking action than breastfeeding. If a baby sucks on the breast in the same manner as she does with a dummy - very little milk comes out and all you get is sore nipples. This is why most lactation consultants and breastfeeding advocates recommend dummies be given only once breastfeeding has been well established.
Anjali, mum of two year old Priya admits that she is starting to worry about her teeth and speaking. "Priya has some words she says, but I always wonder if the dummy is holding her back in some way". Jo-Anne stopped once her son was 18 months old, cold turkey and other than a few nights of bedtime fussiness - she got through it.
Weaning off the Dummy
The decision to introduce a dummy is a personal one, and so just like that, how you decide to wean it off is also a very personal choice. Some parents go “cold turkey” and gradually reduce using the dummy over time or use the concept of the “Dummy Fairy” to take the dummy away (and will of course leave something in exchange for it!).
It can be a traumatic experience - in the short term, it can be a big loss for a kid. With that in mind (and to hopefully avoid the meltdowns), timing is everything - not around any big changes like holidays, moves or a new baby for example - and think about the wording before you ditch the dummy. Work with your child to get them onboard - rather than saying "You're too big for this" and taking it away can leave the child feeling shame and rage and leaves them distraught - which, of course, then gets nightmare, meltdowns and whining.
But one piece of advice - once you have weaned your child off it, throw it away!
As for me, my little girl dropped the dummy around six months. And now, whenever one of my friends is having a new baby I always gift one - just in case - because I learned that when it comes to parenting sometimes it is whatever gets you through for those moments.
Blue Brontide are giving away TWO of their organic cotton dummy clips! Worth $36.00 each, they are perfect for keeping dummies/ teethers off the floor & close at hand. All handmade in the UK from hand-printed organic sustainable fabrics, and all sewn together with GOTS certified organic thread!
These materials are carefully selected not only to create an eco-friendly product but to make sure they are safe against your baby's soft delicate skin! We even pack green sending your dummy clips in an organic linen bag, with oak wooden tags & a drawstring top to keep your littles soother clip safe and clean when not in use!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page under the post about whether you ever thought you would use a dummy before kids - and if you did or not. For additional entries, share the blog post or like our Facebook page.
Blue Brontide ship worldwide and are also giving our readers a generous 20% off STOREWIDE to buy anything from their gorgeous range of eco-friendly tableware and accessories. Use the code ORGANIC20 at checkout.
Giveaway and discount offer ends midnight 2nd of November 2017. Winners will be chosen via random.org and posted in our newsletter and on our Facebook page the following day. Good luck!