When we become parents, our life takes a 360º turn. Suddenly we have a little person in our care to whom we want to give all our love and care in the best possible way, and many doubts tend to arise.
One of the main questions I get asked during the first few days is about using the dummy. Is it advisable? When should I start giving it to them? Does it have any disadvantages?
That’s why in this article I offer you all the information you need to decide whether to provide it with or not, knowing its advantages and disadvantages, the best time to introduce and remove it and if you decide to use it, how to choose the most suitable model.
Dummies for newborns: advantages, disadvantages and when to use them
Is it necessary to give a dummy to a newborn baby?
Sucking would be a primitive and involuntary reflex of your newborn, even if it were already present when they were inside your belly.
There are two types of sucking:
– Nutritive, which would be covered by sucking at the breast or bottle for feeding.
– Non-nutritive, which is also very important, as, in addition to helping to stimulate the production of breast milk, it relaxes and dummies your baby, promotes sleep, reduces pain and favours the maturation of sucking and swallowing, among other things.
Breastfeeding on demand meets all your baby’s needs: nourishment, attachment, love, reassurance, security and relaxation.
But in babies who receive infant formula, this neural need for non-nutrition is not covered, and they usually need to satisfy the non-nutritional part through a dummy (although you could also cover it with other methods such as skin-to-skin or baby wearing).
When to give a dummy to a newborn?
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommend that, in breastfed newborns, you avoid the dummy during the first days of life until breastfeeding is well established.
So, if you decide not to breastfeed your baby, you could offer it from birth to satisfy your baby’s need for non-nutritive sucking.
Whereas if your baby is to be breastfed, it would be ideal to wait until breastfeeding is well established to avoid interference. This will happen when feeds are well established, there are no latch-on problems, you have adequate milk production, and your baby is gaining weight adequately, usually around 4 weeks.
So that you can decide whether or not your baby should use a dummy, I want to tell you about its benefits, but also its disadvantages. This way, you can choose the most suitable option with all the information.
Advantages and disadvantages of dummy use:
The main advantages of the dummy are:
– The function of dummying and relaxing your baby.
– Covering the need for non-nutritive sucking.
– It reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
– Helps to fall asleep.
But you should also be aware of the disadvantages:
– Alteration of the shape of the palate.
– Alteration of oral development and risk of language delay.
– Malocclusion/alteration of bite.
– Possible interference with breastfeeding (nipple/nipple confusion and less stimulation at the breast, which may affect adequate breast milk production).
– Oral cavity infections.
– Risk of tooth decay (from bacteria or sweetening the dummy to aid acceptance).
– Risk of oral injuries due to accidental falls with the dummy in the mouth.
– Increased risk of otitis media due to mouth breathing.
How the use of dummies affects breastfeeding
Breastmilk is the food of choice for newborns and is recommended exclusively for the first 6 months of life and, together with complementary feeding, up to 2 years of age or beyond, as you and your baby wish.
The use of a dummy can interfere with breastfeeding:
– Reduced milk production: studies indicate that, by satisfying the need for sucking with the dummy, the stimulation of the mother’s breast will be reduced, which may lead to reduced milk production and early weaning.
– Nipple/teat confusion syndrome: some authors describe an increase in latch-on difficulties and alteration in the sucking mechanism.
– Early weaning: multiple studies have observed shorter duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding in infants who used a dummy. Although some authors speculate that this is not due to the dummy itself, that dummy use was initiated to alleviate “breastfeeding problems” or low maternal motivation to breastfeed.
Is it OK for a baby to use a dummy at bedtime?
There is scientific evidence that dummy use for sleep reduces Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), although neither the mechanism nor the reason for this is currently known. Some hypotheses suggest that sucking on the dummy would keep the baby alert during sleep and reduce the risk of apnoeas.
The AAP recommends “offering a dummy at nap time and night, without forcing if the baby refuses it”. Although, as I mentioned earlier, in the case of breastfed infants, it is recommended to wait until after the first month.
It should not be forgotten that breastfeeding is already a protective factor against SIDS, and there is scientific evidence to support this. The Previnfad group recommends “exclusive breastfeeding until the sixth month as a protective factor against SIDS”. It is prudent not to reject using the dummy for sleep during the first year until its association as a protective factor is further investigated.
How to introduce dummies for newborns?
If you decide to offer a dummy to your newborn, it is best to use it responsibly:
– Offer it only when they need it to calm down.
– I do not recommend using dummies, nor that the baby carries it hanging and has it available all day, but that you offer it in situations where it is necessary.
– If your baby is breastfed, I do not recommend introducing it before one month. Always wait until breastfeeding is well established to avoid interference.
– Do not offer the dummy to delay feedings; your baby’s feeding should be on demand.
– Never dip it in sweet or other substances. The dummy should always be clean.
What happens if the baby refuses the dummy?
If the baby refuses the dummy, you should not force or smear sweet substances on it to encourage its acceptance.
If your baby is breastfed, it is common for them to reject it, as their sucking needs, both nutritional and non-nutritional, are covered by breastfeeding.
Suppose you are very interested in introducing it. In that case, you can continue trying, always in a respectful way and without forcing. If your baby still rejects it, you can cover this need for attachment in other ways, such as skin-to-skin contact or babywearing mentioned above.
To what age is it advisable for a baby to use a dummy?
From the eruption of the first tooth, between 6-8 months, you could try to start removing it. The most common is from the age of one year, and you should never delay it beyond 2 years.
As we have already mentioned, using a dummy can cause alterations in the dentition and bite, which can be reversible if the dummy is removed before 24 months. When the dummy is removed later, the alterations may be irreversible on their own and may require orthodontics later on.
Try to find the best time to remove them:
– Ideally, it should not coincide with important changes in our baby’s life, such as the arrival of a sibling, the start of nursery school, moving house, etc.
– We will try to do it progressively, respecting their time, as they have been an important object of attachment for our baby.
– We can explain the situation to them and read children’s stories on the subject to prepare them.
– Do it little by little, first reducing its use during the day, then during naps and, finally, at night.
– During this period, you should always accompany your baby with lots of cuddles, attention and hugs to facilitate the process.
What type of dummy is best for a newborn baby
When choosing a dummy, try to choose the “least bad” and least invasive one.
You have to differentiate 3 main parts:
– The teat: I recommend that it should be as flat and flexible as possible to reduce bite alterations. Although there is no unanimity, I recommend physiological rather than anatomical tests. The ball-shaped or cherry-shaped ones are the most invasive, so it is best to avoid them. As for the material, I prefer silicone to latex, as they are more resistant and hygienic.
– The collar should be as thin as possible so that it is less invasive.
– The shield: I recommend that it should be flexible, have ventilation holes and preferably not have an eyelet.
As for the size, I recommend using a small size (0-6 months) and not increasing it even if the baby grows.
A dummy is an object widely used in developed societies to satisfy our babies’ non-nutritive needs, calm them, and help them sleep.
Once informed about its advantages and disadvantages, it is up to each family to choose to use it or not, which is totally respectable.
If you decide to use a dummy, remember that it is advisable not to offer it until after the first month of life, when breastfeeding is well established, to avoid interference. In addition, I recommend using it occasionally without abusing it and withdrawing it from the age of one year and never later than 24 months to avoid irreversible alterations.