After living in Spain for 13 years now, I can confidently say that the dummy is definitely a cultural addiction. I see most babies here use a dummy. Sometimes until a very late age, when taking it away can be traumatic. Even tiny little newborns are constantly presented with dummies days after getting home from the hospital. Its like an accessory that most parents think is a necessity. But its really not in my opinion. Babies can get on just fine without one. I frequently hear people commenting or giving “advice” when they hear a crying baby, “doesn’t he have a dummy?, Just give him a dummy” But in my opinion that’s not always the right way to deal with a crying baby.
Yes its true that babies are born with an instinct to suck. Its a biological instinct which they even start to practice in utero. The main reason is for learning how to nurse correctly, but also for self-soothing and sometimes a path to sleep. For some babies, the pacifier is magic. On the other hand, using a pacifier can also hold back sleep progress, or even cause a sleep regression and impede sleep where it used to help.
For the majority of my clients (60%), the dummy is the cause of their children waking in the night and catnapping during the day. Another 15% use other sleep aids, such as, rocking, patting or feeding back to sleep.
There are six reasons why a baby with a dummy wakes more frequently than one without (Source Tizzie Hall):
1. A baby with a dummy often finds it harder to achieve a deep sleep as their intermittent sucking will disturb their sleep pattern.
2. A baby who goes to sleep with a dummy will wake up expecting to suck, but if the dummy has fallen out he will shout for you to come and put it in again. Unfortunately, by the time you go in to replace the dummy, your baby may be so awake that it is hard for him to get back to sleep.
3. Dummy use can also interfere with speech development. If you watch a contented baby lying in his cot, he will be looking around and making babbling sounds. This is the baby’s first attempts at speech. A baby with a dummy, however, will be concentrating on sucking and will not be looking around or babbling.
4. Also, take notice of what it says on the label of most dummies, as many manufacturers advise you to never leave your baby unattended with a dummy in case they chew off the top and choke on or swallow it.
5. Babies who suck on dummies are at higher risk of ear infections, which may lead to high fevers and the need for antibiotics, both of which have their own side effects.
6. A dummy can mask other problems. If a baby is crying and will not settle there is a usually a reason, and a dummy can make this difficult to determine. Often when a baby finishes his feed a parent will pop a dummy in straight away, as the baby is unsettled. Oftentimes, the baby is crying because he needs more milk or has wind.
Some research suggests dummy use reduces the risk of SIDS, but for me the problems associated with using a dummy outweigh this possible benefit.
Sometimes parents are puzzled when their baby suddenly starts waking up more at night. If the baby is older and doesn’t have night feeds but is still waking up for no apparent reason, the dummy is most likely the problem.
If you think the dummy is what is causing frequent night wake ups, it’s probably time to give it up. That can seem like a big step to most parents but the reality is, babies can re-learn habits and learn how to sleep well with out one. Just make sure you don’t´ replace the dummy with another sleep prop that they need to fall asleep!
Tip: Before giving a crying baby a dummy, make sure nothing is wrong in the first place. A dummy might mask a problem.
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