To Dummy or NOT to Dummy, that is the Question

A lot of first-time parents always stress when it comes to making the right decisions for their little bundle of joy. They are bound to ask “is this the best solution for our baby?” and do everything in within their power to ensure no harm comes to their child. 

However, making decisions like these may not be as simple as one might think. There’s social media shaming, and it is even harder when family and relatives are giving their 2-cents on what is best for your child – well-meaning as they may be. This often leaves parents more confused than ever!

A popular topic that always draws a debate is whether parents should offer their precious ones a pacifier or dummy. 

Are Pacifiers and Dummies a bad thing?

Mayra Rosado, MD, a paediatrician with HealthCare Partners in Los Angeles tells WebMD, this is not necessarily true. There was even a study done on how pacifiers and dummies can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In fact, pacifiers are lifesavers when it comes to soothing a fussy baby. It is a reliable way to pacify a baby which helps them to sleep better and in turn give parents their much-needed rest. 

So why all the bad rep? Again, this could be due to “advice” being passed down that may or may not be necessarily accurate. Ruining the shape of a baby’s mouth and causing dental issues are just some of the common misconceptions that deter parents from offering pacifiers to their child. There’s also the question of why start a habit that would be difficult to undo later? What if the child takes forever to give up their dummies? So should parents offer them or not? Before you decide, let’s go through some of the benefits first.

Benefits of giving a Dummy/Pacifier

There are so many different types of pacifiers in the market today. They come in varying shapes and sizes, made with high-grade non-toxic materials that are safe for babies. Latex pacifiers, silicon pacifiers, orthodontic ones, you name it.

Benefits of offering your precious one a pacifier includes:

  1. Satisfying an infant’s natural instinct to suck. Sucking seems to have a settling and soothing effect on babies which is why parents swear by using the pacifier. It is a nurturing, calming activity that works miracles when it comes to fussy babies. However, the need to suck varies from baby to baby, so there is no set reference for how frequently they will need to do so.  
  2. Helping a baby to self soothe and sleep better. Babies are learning about the big world that they live in on a daily basis. On some days they may feel overstimulated and overwhelmed by everything that is going on around them. A pacifier can offer comfort and reduce fussy spells.
  3. Reducing the risk of over-feeding. Just because your baby has a constant urge to suck, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he is hungry! Sometimes they just do it for comfort and as a result, we run the risk of overfeeding them. This is why offering a pacifier is perfect.
  4. Giving up a pacifier is easier than giving up thumb sucking. When the time comes, parents can easily throw out the pacifier. Oh, the horror of how to stop the thumb sucking when it is permanently attached to your precious one! You won’t be breaking the habit anytime soon if it is always readily available to them.

Common Myths Busted

“Breastfeeding newborns should stay away from pacifiers.”  Despite the threat of nipple confusion, this doesn’t mean newborns should never use a pacifier. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding mums just need to delay introducing the pacifier until after breastfeeding is well established. As long as your baby’s weight is on track and if he or she has recently been fed, there is nothing wrong in offering a pacifier. 

“Pacifiers and dummies can cause dental problems.” Generally, there is no harm for the first two years because your baby’s mouth is able to correct itself, say experts. Even if pacifiers are used conservatively, how hard a baby sucks also plays a role. However, it is quite unlikely for the child to require corrective methods unless the pacifier is used at all times. Other than that, as long as the pacifiers are not laced with anything sugary, they shouldn’t cause any tooth decay or major dental problems.

“Some pacifiers are better than others.” There is no scientific proof for this and at the end of the day it all rolls down to preference as well as trial and error. Again, every baby sucks differently. Parents just need to make sure they are offering age appropriate pacifiers and dummies that are intact. Broken parts are a choking hazard.

Do’s and Don’ts when using a Dummy/Pacifier:

  • Do sterilise all pacifiers before use.
  • Do keep a spare pacifier with you as a backup in case one of them gets misplaced or dirty right when you need them. No 5-second rule when it comes to pacifiers. Adults might have the antibody for it but there are extremely harmful germs that can be dangerous to your baby.
  • Don’t force a baby to use a pacifier when they do not want to. Instead, try other ways of calming. 
  • Don’t put the pacifier back into your baby’s mouth if it has fallen out after they have fallen asleep.
  • Do choose an age-appropriate pacifier for your baby. A one-piece pacifier is a great choice because they are less likely to break apart and be a choking hazard.
  • Do try to get the child to stop using the pacifier in their toddlerhood before they hit 4 years old to avoid dental trouble.
  • Do try to reduce the use of pacifiers when a child is socialising to encourage speech development.
  • Do use a proper pacifier holder that is not longer than 6 inches to avoid choking.

Ultimately it is your call as Parents

Whether it is to help you soothe a fussy baby, or help you get a good night’s rest, both are valid reasons. Decide for yourself what works for you and take opposing comments with a pinch of salt. Ultimately it is your call at the end of the day, what is best for your bundle of joy. 

If you choose to introduce your baby to the pacifier, Philips Avent and Nuby are great examples of reputable brands to start with. Both have extended information regarding their products and choices on their respective websites. 

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