Choosing And Using Dummies

So many expectant couples make dummies one of the first things they purchase when they start equipping their baby’s nursery, so I thought it’s probably time for me to share some thoughts about choosing and using this almost universal symbol of babyhood!

In many countries, dummies are mostly called ‘pacifiers’ and the reason is quite clear – parents want to pacify their crying or unsettled baby, because everyone wants a content, calm baby! Whether you call them dummies or pacifiers, there are a few things to take into serious consideration if you’re looking at buying some, and the chief factor is that inherent, reflexive behaviour all babies have, called suckling. That of course is what Baby does at the breast, and is in essence a vital physical and emotional survival strategy, ensuring mother’s milk will be accessed but also a host of other physiological benefits from being held close to Mom.

Sucking – which is what babies do with dummies, bottle teats, thumbs, or other fingers – is a way to try and satisfy the deep seated reflexive suckling need when Mom’s breast is not available, and should always be seen within this light.

For many babies, a dummy will help satisfy their suckling reflex and it can be an effective way to soothe unnecessary tears from high-need babies. When Mom cannot be there to fulfil her baby’s suckling need, sucking will have some emotional value. If your baby is using a dummy, make sure that you cuddle and comfort him in your arms sufficiently too – it should not be a way to be hands-off with Baby! There are many who criticise sucking on dummies and other items (often rightly so) but when it truly can help a baby, giving a dummy shouldn’t be disregarded without some thought as to what the most important thing needing to be achieved for Baby’s sake, is.

Effects on breastfeeding

If you’re keen to breastfeed, it’s best not to offer a dummy. Breastfed babies may get confused by the different shape and feel of the dummy teat in their mouths, and it can disrupt their latching while breastfeeding. Some breastfed babies simply refuse a dummy, mush preferring the real deal from Mom! Conversely, some babies are quite happy to switch between the breast and dummy.

Choosing a dummy

When it comes to choosing a dummy, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. The biggest mistake many parents make is with the size of the dummy, often getting one with a teat which is too big for a newborn or very small baby, which makes them gag. Once Baby is at a weaning age, his dummy needs change again, as do those of a teething baby. Some brands of dummies take this into account as they strive to aid a baby’s developmental phases. Of course, Baby is an individual so you’ll have to take his preferences into account too!

Another important consideration when using a dummy is keeping it clean. Avoid using sterilising solutions because the thrush organism can still grow in some of them. Instead:

  • Wash the dummy thoroughly in soapy water
  • Place it in a container of just-boiled water
  • Let it stand in the water for ten minutes
  • Take it out and store it in an airtight container – many dummies come with their own container to keep them clean