Baby and newborn dummy use
“I thought, whatever gets you through the night, whatever settles them, if that’s a dummy, then so be it”.
It’s the million dollar question that every new parent asks themselves: should I give my baby a dummy? In the true spirit of loving, not judging, the answer is that it’s entirely up to you. But we get it. Using a dummy comes with an array of different questions. Questions like: can newborns have dummies? Can babies sleep with a dummy? And what are the pros and cons of dummy use?
If you need some help to make a call, look no further. Here you’ll find answers to some common questions. As well as some words of wisdom from other families who have also asked themselves ‘should we use a dummy?’.
When to give babies and newborns a dummy
If you’re thinking about giving your baby a dummy, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that two thirds of parents1 give their baby a dummy at some point. But how early can you use a dummy?
Your little one will arrive into the world with a ready made, and incredibly strong, instinct to suck!2 It’s this reflex that helps them learn how to feed.
Some research suggests that using a dummy should be avoided in the first few weeks of life3. That’s because of something known as ‘nipple confusion’, where your baby satisfies their sucking instinct on a dummy or a bottle, as opposed to the breast. Some experts believe that nipple confusion can make it difficult to establish breastfeeding, or for breastfeeding to happen for a shorter time than is recommended4. With that in mind, you might decide that you want to wait until you and your baby have got the hang of breastfeeding before introducing a dummy.
Can babies sleep with a dummy?
It’s perfectly safe for your baby to use a dummy whilst they sleep. It may fall out, but don’t worry - your baby will soon let you know if they want it back again!
If you choose to use a dummy, the NHS recommendation is that you offer it consistently at the beginning of every sleep, both day and night5.
How to wean a baby off dummies
The NHS recommends that your baby stops using a dummy between the ages of six and 12 months6. However, that’s much easier said than done!
The important thing to remember is that every baby and every parent is different. If you think it’s time for your baby to stop using a dummy, here are our top tips for making the transition go as smoothly (and quietly…) as possible:
- Slowly does it. Some babies will wean off their dummy better if their use of it is gradually reduced. That way, they’ll slowly get used to not using it anymore.
- Think about how to stop using a dummy at night. Consider removing the dummy at bedtime. The sooner your baby learns not to use it as a sleep aid, the less likely they are to wake up looking for it.
- Stay strong! Your baby may well protest. But if you still feel confident in your decision, stick with it!
It’s OK to change your mind, too. If you decide to stop using a dummy but then discover that it’s just not working for your family, take a break and try again another time. This isn’t giving up, it’s simply going with the flow.
Why do some people choose not to use a dummy?
As we’ve discussed above, some parents choose not to use a dummy in order to have the best possible start to breastfeeding. But there are other reasons why some choose not to use a dummy.
Tiny tummy troubles
Using a dummy can lead to tummy upsets7. Your baby is an active bundle of energy, it’s hardly surprising that their dummy will get dropped on the floor and popped straight back into their mouth! Ensuring that you’ve got a ready supply of sterilised dummies will help here.
Dummy use and teeth are a worry for some parents too. The British Dental Association advises against the long term use of dummies, because it can cause problems with healthy tooth development8.
Some experts have suggested that using a dummy may cause problems for your little one’s speech development9. This is because using a dummy can prevent your baby from babbling, or (in the case of a toddler) being encouraged to chat.
Your baby, their dummy, nobody’s business
“I was more concerned about what people thought. About what they’d think if we were parents using a dummy”.
There’s no doubt about it, dummy use has been a source of judgement and contention for a long time. Some parents are completely against using a dummy. Others feel that they’re an acceptable way to soothe an unsettled tot.
Whatever your stance, remember that it’s just that - YOURS. You shouldn’t have to justify your reasons to anyone else, and vice versa. That’s how to Love Don’t Judge.
- Dummy Wise Leaflet, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, April 2019 ref: 0642 v2
- https://www.hct.nhs.uk/media/2349/use-a-dummy-v2.pdf Date of issue May 2017
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