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Nov 19, 2021

The dummy, the paci, the pacifier

However you refer to the lump of plastic and rubber often associated with babies, is an oft discussed topic. Particularly when it comes to infant sleep. The decision to use a dummy, or not, is entirely up to those parenting the baby and the baby themselves.

Research has shown that the use of a dummy (alongside all other safe sleep practises) may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and is actively promoted in some countries such as the United States (read more here). They can also be really effective at settling new born babies for a number of reasons but the main one being that sucking a dummy to calm a baby can help them shift from the sympathetic nervous system (being in ‘fight or flight mode’, characterised by uncontrollable crying, increased adrenalin and cortisol) to the parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest’). This enables the release of trapped wind and produces lots of saliva which the baby then swallows. The saliva contains lots of enzymes that aid in the digestion of milk in the stomach which the pancreas is not yet able to do. At around 6 months of age, the pancreas takes on the role of producing these enzymes to break down milk and the solids that may be introduced around this time.

Should it go?

We often hear “oh the dummy was so good in the early weeks and now we feel like we’re up all night replacing it… does it have to go?”

Well my answer to this question is always “only if you want to” or “if it’s a problem for you.” Dummy’s do get a bad rap when it comes to infant sleep and people often believe that the dummy is the cause of frequent night waking which is easy to believe when you feel like you are up every hour replacing it.

Here’s a bed bomb: the use of the dummy is unlikely to be the sole cause of night waking but it may be a temporary cure and replacing it may help your little one get back to sleep quickly.

Is the dummy a bad habit?

I don’t believe in bad habits, only what does and doesn’t work for you. If all is well and the dummy working for your family then, all is well.

What to do if the dummy is going to stay?

  • Encourage your little one to be able to find and replace the dummy if they wake and need it, this is usually most successful from 8-9 months.
  • Start by practising in the day time and make a game of it. Pop the dummy into their hand and help them to pop it in their mouth. Practise this a few times 3-4 times a day. When they manage to get it into their mouth praise them dramatically and clap for them.
  • Then move to just popping it in their hand and allow them to find their mouths themselves, you may want to attach the dummy to them or to a comforter to help them find it.
  • Pop lots of spare dummies in the cot.
  • Once they have practised using the dummy during the day, begin to support them in the cot by placing the dummy into their hand and encouraging them to replace it.
  • After 2-3 days place the comforter in their hand and encourage them to find the dummy.
  • Once they have mastered this then pop the comforter onto their chest and encourage them to find it
  • After another 4-5 days or so, place the comforter on the cot and pat the mattress where the comforter is

If you would like help with supporting your little one to sleep without a dummy click here to get in touch and see how we can help.

I’m Sarah, principal therapist of Secure Foundations; a unique sleep support service based on trauma informed and attachment-focused parenting. My speciality is working with those who are caring for children with a trauma history or attachment disorders, however we welcome the connection with all family journeys.

Secure Foundations was born out of years of study, work and an enduring passion for raising stable, resilient children and their healthy emotional development. We are big believers that each family is entirely unique, and all our recommendations are individualised and completely tailored to meet the goals of your family.