I always find myself coming to the rescue of a parent who has been made to feel guilt or uncertainty when it comes to dummies. In some cases, the subject of these little pacifiers is as divisive as deciding how to feed baby. It bothers me for many reasons.
I will always tackle those that shame parents head on. No one, not a well-meaning grandparent, friend or stranger in the street, owns the right to pass judgement on a parent, for the choices they have made in what they believe to be their child’s best interests.
Oftentimes, people do not realise the potential damage that a throwaway comment can have. Dummies, pacifiers, binkies – whatever name they go by, tend to get the worst of the snide remarks. Countless times over my 13-year journey as a parent, I have been on the receiving end of dummy related jibes, some well-meant, some not so. “They ruin their teeth, you know?” “Don’t you realise you are making a rod for your own back?” “When are you going to get that ugly thing out of their mouth?”
The list goes on. And on.
As parents, we don’t tend to have the necessary energy spare, to spend on justifying our every decision. Much better to breathe and walk away. Anyone on the receiving end of this moment though, knows it is not always easy to distance oneself from such remarks. Much harder than that, is to avoid the inner voice that then begins to question our own instincts, once a seed of doubt is planted. One little comment, and another worry to add to the already toppling pile.
What I’ve learnt about dummies from working with, and raising, children
Three of the four of my children had dummies. My fourth, genuinely hates them 85% of the time. Either way, here are some snippets of knowledge I have gathered over the 15 years I have worked with children and my 13 years as a mother.
Dummies and teeth
My children all have good teeth. My second had a fever as an infant which has impacted her teeth a little, but other than that, my dummy sucking children who were all threatened with hideously crooked gnashers during their days as dummy owners, are all absolutely fine. We live in a time where pacifiers themselves are made to standards set by dentists and orthodontists and my own dentist has absolutely no issues with dummies whatsoever. I have asked him. MANY times.
Getting rid of dummies
I have three little (and one not so little) ex dummy owners that no longer rely on their pacifiers. It wasn’t difficult to get them to part with them. We used different methods to dispose of the dummies depending on each child.
My 12-year-old still laughs about the lovely cabin crew member on the plane home from Spain, who told her that she needed her dummies for other babies on the plane – and how she believed for years that every time she saw a plane, she imagined all four of her dummies to be flying above her. She was 3.
That moment formed a core memory which I believed was her first experience of true empathy. In that moment, she wanted to give somebody else the thing that she no longer needed, in order to help them.
The aesthetics of a dummy
Now, there’s obviously the aesthetic issue of using a dummy. Not everyone likes the look of a dummy. This is subjective though, and definitely not a huge one when it comes to drawing up your list of pros and cons. Some parents love dressing their children in colour – rainbows and primaries and brightness. Others prefer earthy tones, greys and bright whites. Some of us love both depending on the day and what adventure is taking place.
It’s the same with a pacifier. You do you. Some find them adorable and some not so much. Others love how they soothe baby, but only when at home or during naps – when it comes to dummies and everything else for that matter, you’ve just got to do what works for YOU and YOUR baby!
My personal view on dummies
I personally love dummies, because when babies choose to take them, they can make life easier. There are so many instances in a baby’s development when they need additional comfort, whether from the pain of teething, the intensity of separation anxiety, the exhaustion of sleep regression or the transition between different types of feeding.
This stuff is challenging, particularly when, as parents, we are already balancing a thousand things on a knife edge. In many instances, dummies make one of the most exhausting and emotionally intense jobs in the world, a little less tricky. They can make for more feelings of calm, and more sleep and I am all for something that promotes both of those things safely!
Like with anything we use or do in life, there are pros and cons, which I will highlight below. Fundamentally, the most important thing is, and will always be, following safe guidelines and doing what is best for your baby, yourself and your situation. We can only ever do our best with the information and resources we have access to.
Tips for dummy usage:
- Opt for a flat, orthodontic dummy as these are said to be better for baby’s teeth.
- Sterilise dummies as you would bottles and teats.
- Don’t dip the dummy into anything sweet as this can harm baby’s gums and developing teeth.
- Try not to let baby become too reliant on the dummy. If you can, use it only for sleep and during unsettled times.
- Only introduce the dummy once breastfeeding is well established (this for me was always easier said than done)
- Do not force baby to take a dummy if they do not want to. Likewise, if it has fallen out during sleep, don’t force it back in.
Dummy / Pacifier usage Pros and Cons
- Can soothe baby when nothing else is working.
- The sucking motion can provide pain relief, for instance, during teething.
- There is some evidence (sited within the Lullaby Trust website) that using dummies can lower the risk of SIDS even if the dummy falls out while baby is sleeping.
- New tech for sterilising on the go means usage is now much easier.
- Dummy-like contraptions now make it much easier to give babies medications as and when necessary.
- Another thing to sterilise and keep track of.
- Additional cost of buying and replacing.
- Can impact speech development if overused and relied on.
- Feeding cues can be missed – this further supports the importance of only offering a dummy once breastfeeding is established, it is important to really listen in to baby and to keep usage to a minimum.