Dummy, passie, binkie…it goes by many names. Parents seem to have a love-hate relationship with them and there tends to be some controversy around them. So, I thought I’d help clear up a few of the most common concerns about them. (I’ve always called it a dummy, so I’ll stick to that term for consistency sake in this article.)
Why use a dummy?
It has been clinically proven that sucking has a calming effect on babies. Premature babies in NICU are given dummies because they have been proven to reduce stress, aid weight gain, reduce stress-related complications, aid in sensory modulation and, when combined with a sweet flavour (in NICU they use a drop of glucose on the tongue), it has been proven to reduce pain. So this magic combo is used when babies have to endure painful procedures. It is also why popping your baby on the breast when they get a vaccine, is highly recommended.
The world is a very overwhelming place for a baby, packed full of sensory-overloading input flooding at them from every direction. Being able to suck on something, helps them to stay in a calm state, which aids development, growth and good quality sleep.
But isn’t it just unnatural?
Since the dawn of mankind, babies have always used sucking as a way to soothe. Originally it was on the breast, yes, but thankfully modern technology means that we don’t have to have baby attached to our chest 24/7 and can save our nipples from destruction. Technically it’s more natural to poop in your garden and wipe yourself with leaves, but when something far more convenient is available, there is no shame in using it. I am very pro breastfeeding and KMC, but there’s no need to be a human dummy too.
Shouldn’t babies rather suck on their hands?
Yes, baby could suck on hands or on their thumbs to self-soothe, but I like to begin with the end in mind. It is quite simple to control when your baby/toddler has access to their dummy (if you struggle with this, a Munchkins coach can help you), and it’s actually very easy to get rid of the dummy when the time comes. But fingers are another story all together. You can’t exactly give those away to a “finger fairy”, so it is really gruelling to get your child out of their finger-sucking habit. In fact, I have come across quite a few primary and evening high school children that are ashamed to admit, they still just can’t kick the habit.
Won’t it keep falling out?
Babies need to be swaddled when they sleep for at least the first 15 weeks, thanks to the silly startle reflex. But I like to keep babies swaddled for sleep until about 5 months – swaddled and in side-lying (so they are in foetal position with their hands against their chest). That way if they spit up, it will run out, AND it is far easier to prop the dummy into place so that it’s less likely to fall out. Once the child is 5 months, they are pretty good at seeing what they want, reaching for it and popping it in their mouths. That’s when you start using a dummy clip during awake time so they can practice finding their dummy by themselves.
Will it affect speech and cause orthodontic bills?
Yes! Unless you are very disciplined in making sure that from 10 months (which is when babbling starts) the dummy is strictly for sleep only. That way there is minimal sucking happening (only as they fall asleep) to prevent it effecting their teeth, and it’s never in their mouth when they are practicing ba-ba-ba, ma-ma-ma, da-da-da. If you continue to allow access to dummy during awake time, it can not only affect their speech and teeth, but it can cause the dummy to become an unhealthy emotional crutch. (If you’ve fallen into this trap already, a Munchkins Parenting coach can help you.)
How do I get rid of it?
As long as you have been disciplined that dummy is strictly for sleep time only, the dummy is very easy to get rid of at about 2 and a half years old. You simply get rid of all dummies in the house except for one that’s in a decent condition. You then cut a super tiny little hole at the tip of the dummy and say nothing of it. When getting ready for bed, your toddler will notice the hole and show you. You act surprised but assure them that at least it still works – which is will. Every second day, you cut off another 2mm off the tip of the dummy until eventually the child is barely able to hold on to it by the tip of their teeth and will reject it themselves. When this happens you celebrate that they are such a big boy/girl that they get to take their broken dummy with to the shop (best go to a cheap toy shop) and let them choose a toy that they can “pay” for with their broken dummy. They then walk out proudly feeling like it was their idea and they got something pretty awesome out of the deal. Sorted.