Annette Faamausili, May 28 2019

The Soother Debate - The Pros & Cons Of Using a Dummy

As a parent, you are faced with an endless number of decisions involving the health and welfare of your children. Sometimes it is hard to know which is the right choice,especially if there are both negatives and positives to weigh up first!

Giving your baby a dummy is one of those decisions.

Soother, dummy, pacifier, binky… whatever you call it, there are a lot of opinions out there.

When it comes to the soother debate - whether or not to give your baby a pacifier or dummy - you will get opinions and information from many people. Remember, not all of it is factual!

Let’s make life a little easier by sorting the fact from the fiction and presenting the pros and cons of using a soother with your wee one. 

The Pros Of Using A Dummy

Soothing And Calming

Newborn babies are equipped with a sucking reflex. It is triggered when something touches the roof of their mouth. The physical act of sucking releases calming chemicals in your baby's brain, which soothes and relaxes them. This helps them get to sleep and is the primary way babies self soothe for the first few months.

Using a dummy to help your baby settle can give everyone the rest they need.

Helps Premature Babies

The use of a pacifier in premature babies can help them thrive. Studies have shown shorter hospital stays and improved bottle feeding when using a pacifier. Impressively, premature babies that used a pacifier while being fed via a gavage (nose tube) showed better nutrient digestion than those who didn’t.

May Decrease The Chances Of SIDS

Research indicates that using a soother while your baby sleeps may reduce the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). While the research is inconclusive as to why a soother can help, it is thought they help to keep airways open and allows your baby to sleep more lightly. That way, they are more likely to wake up if they have trouble breathing.

Easier To Wean Than Thumbs Or Fingers

We all know that babies like to put things in their mouths. Anything from sleeves to toes - basically anything they can wrangle in there. Because of their need to suckle and their hands are right there, some babies may develop the habit of sucking their thumb or fingers. When it does come time to wean them from sucking, it is much more straightforward to remove a dummy than it is to encourage them to stop thumb or finger sucking.

Prevents Tooth Decay

There is a lot of negativity around the dental aspects of using a soother. But, there is a positive in this area too. Sucking helps produce saliva, which assists in preventing the build-up of plaque on your baby’s new teeth. It may also help reduce the pain associated with teething.

Helps With Travel On Planes

You can’t exactly give your baby one of the hard boiled sweets that the flight attendant hands out as your flight starts to descend! However, a soother is a great alternative. The act of sucking helps relieve pressure in the inner ear during pressure changes involved in flight, making your baby less uncomfortable during takeoff and landing. 

The Cons Of Using A Dummy

Can Interfere With Breastfeeding

If introduced too early, a dummy may cause issues with breastfeeding. This can result in some nipple confusion for baby. While some can go from dummy to breast with no problem, others may end up preferring to suckle on the pacifier. That is why it is recommended to establish a good feeding routine before introducing a pacifier.

May Increase Chances Of Ear Infections

If used for too long, pacifiers can increase the chance of ear infections, possibly by up to a third. This may be due to changes in the pressure of the inner ear, as well as the introduction of germs. To avoid this, only use the pacifier during naps and at bedtime.

 Can Affect Speech Development

From six to twelve months, your baby starts to use their mouth to explore the world, helping develop the tongue and lip muscles. If they always have a dummy in their mouth, they won’t want to do this as much. The older your baby gets, the more impact dummy use has on their speech. Keep this in mind and restrict soother use when they are playing and communicating.

 Possible Dental Issues

Extended use of pacifiers can significantly impact the growth of new teeth, causing problems down the line. There is a condition called “Pacifier Teeth” which can cause overbites, protruding front teeth, or general crookedness. Don’t brush it off as a short term problem. Even when their baby teeth fall out, Pacifier Teeth can cause longer term issues with your child’s mouth, jaw, tongue and gums.

While this condition is a genuine risk, it generally only occurs if soothers are used into toddlerhood and beyond.

 Soothers Can Be Addictive!

As with any comfort tool, your baby may become heavily reliant on their soother. You may find yourself woken up in the early hours by a screaming baby who lost their dummy. And then there is the withdrawal period when it is time to wean them off.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to using a soother. It is a personal decision that you will need to make to see if they are the right tool for your family. Some babies will get immense comfort from them whereas others will not like them at all.

If you decide that a dummy is right for your baby, we recommend trying to wean them off it from the ages of 6-12 months to prevent those cons from outweighing the pros. The longer you use it, the harder it will be to stop. Gradually reduce the use of a soother over a few weeks to make the adjustment easier to bear for both baby and parents.

If you need any advice or support surrounding the introduction of a pacifier or weaning your child off one, then get in touch with me here at Serene Sleep.

Written by

Annette Faamausili

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