Quite early on in my pregnancy D and I had a discussion about the use of dummies. We sit on quite opposite sides of the fence on this issue, with D in favour and me being a lifelong believer that dummies are horrid.
As it's something we need to think about I decided to look into it a little bit more and was reminded of my brother talking about the benefits that dummies can have when looking into it for his own two boys. Of course at the time babies were not on the agenda for me and I can't remember a single benefit he mentioned! Research time!
In browsing the various articles I've found, and the stories of mum's who use dummies, and those who have avoided them, I've realised what a contentious issue this can be for some people.
Prior to research I was unaware of any benefits at all and viewed dummies as something that babies become reliant on, and that were just a haven for germs. How many times have I seen toddlers using dummies, to throw them on a dirty floor and only to pick it up and put it straight in their mouth again? *shudder*
However there does appear to be one key benefit reported. I'm not sure at this stage how well evidenced it is, but research suggests that the "appropriate" use of dummies can help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). By appropriate this means limiting the use of dummies to just when putting the baby to sleep, and not replacing it in it's mouth if it falls out during sleep.
In this respect, if dummies were only used in this way, and you could resist the urge to use them as a tool to just quiet a crying baby when you're trying to get on with your day, get some rest etc... then yes I can see that it's a huge draw for a lot of parents. However, the evidence to support this research is not vastly documented. If I can find good supporting evidence then it's something I definitely should consider. Dummies are by no means seen to be the only way to decrease the risk of SIDS. Putting your baby to sleep on its back and not smoking are widely seen as key in this.
On the downside, there are a number of reasons highlighted not to use a dummy:
- Some research links the use of dummies to an increase in recurrent ear infections in young children.
- If your baby uses a dummy a lot, it may affect the structure of his mouth. This may result in mucus not draining so well along the Eustachian tubes.
- Using a dummy may affect your baby's health in other ways too. Babies who use dummies seem to be prone to more chest infections and tummy upsets. The exact cause hasn't been established, but using a dummy has been linked to an increase in vomiting, fever, diarrhoea and colic.
- If a dummy is introduced too early, there’s the risk of nipple confusion for a baby who’s just learning to suckle. When a baby is being breastfed, it’s best not to give a dummy until breastfeeding is well established, usually at about one month old.
- Parents can mistakenly offer a dummy when the baby really needs nutrition-based sucking.
- Babies who overuse a dummy for long periods, may have problems as their teeth grow and develop.
- Overuse of a dummy can also hinder speech development, which is why it’s recommended that you try to limit the times your baby uses a dummy, and to wean your baby off the dummy completely by the age of one.
- Dummy use can affect long term nursing patterns too. One theory is that a baby can spend so much time enjoying those unproductive (yet satisfying) sucks that they lose interest in the ones that maybe take a bit more effort but actually fill their tummy. And because milk supply is dependent upon their sucking, those misplaced efforts might mean that milk production stops far earlier than it needs to.
- Being dependent upon the dummy can mean mum or dad getting less sleep as a fussy crying baby demands the dummy put back in it's mouth when it drops out in the night.
- If a baby gets attached to a dummy, the habit can be a hard one to break — especially once your baby turns into a stroppy toddler!
- It can also become a real temptation for parents to use dummies as a mean to quieten their child when they're grumbling, meaning that cues can be misread for a tummy ache, uncomfortable nappy, or just missing Mama.
I think, after all this I'm still against using a dummy if possible.... but I'm going to look into the SIDS issue some more before making a final decision.