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Dummies & Newborns

Dummies & Newborns

The decision on whether to use, and continue to use a dummy, is completely up to you. It's a topic that everyone has an opinion on, and often won't hesitate to share it with you!

At The Sleep Store, we support parents decision to use a dummy. We have used them with our four children. We found them so useful for helping newborns settle, a good tool for stretching out night feeds and pretty much invaluable over the first few months.

We are big fans of The Happiest Baby 5's techniques, one of which is Sucking. If your baby isn't hungry, then a dummy is a good alternative to using the breast or little finger to help calm your newborn. It can give mothers a break from feeding and fathers another way to feel in control of settling their baby.

Research in The States has also shown using a dummy significantly reduces the risk of SIDS, which is always handy to tell people if they share their negative opinion about dummies!

However a baby can become very dependant on a dummy as they get older (usually starts to be an issue over 4 months) and cry out for you to replace it during the night. Generally using a dummy is pretty hassle free in the first few months, but once you find you are getting up several times a night to replace a dummy, then it may be time to get rid of it!

Here's some information on how to use a dummy with your baby, tips to help avoid your baby becoming dependent on one, as well as some ideas for weaning off a dummy when it's time to do so:

Why use a dummy with your newborn

Many newborn babies love to suck, and you will find sucking can really help them to settle. You can use the breast or your little finger to suck on. The benefit of a dummy is that it means baby can fall asleep in their bed, rather than on you. And separating settling from feeding means you can follow the essential feed/play/sleep routine from early on.

Many babies are not coordinated to suck their fingers until they are 3-5 months old, even if they sucked their fingers in the confined space of your womb. Keeping their hands out to suck can be counter-productive if the startle reflex means baby waves his arms around and wakes himself up.

Basically dummies can be an absolute sanity saver in the first few months, making settling quicker and significantly reducing crying.

Dummy use can reduce the risk of SIDS.


Newborn dummy tips

  • Make sure feeding is well established before introducing a dummy.

  • You can use a dummy while your baby is swaddled, which is a very effective combination. Over time change to wrapping with one arm out, so baby can either suck fingers or put dummy in himself.

  • Don't feel bad if you choose to give your newborn a dummy! It's your right to choose to use a dummy. It's a great idea to help your baby stop crying and settle easily if it's sucking she needs.

  • We recommend NUK pacifiers, as they are small, orthodontically shaped and babies seem to like them best.

  • Try settling your baby for a sleep or two each day without the dummy, but do use it when you need to.

  • Using a dummy can help reduce the number of night feeds and eventually give up night feeds. Offer a dummy before offering a feed in the night. If your baby will settle with the dummy, then it was sucking rather than hunger she was after.

  • Never dip the dummy in anything to make it taste better!

  • Never force a baby to take a dummy if she doesn't want it.

  • Some babies take a while to build up the mouth muscles needed to keep the dummy in...gently tugging on the dummy when it is in their mouth can encourage baby to suck harder and develop the ability to keep the dummy in.

When to wean off the dummy

If you are keen to wean your baby off a dummy before the habit gets too established, start to reduce use by about 3 months.

If you use the dummy beyond 3 months, you may find your baby starts to need it more often during the night.

However many families find a dummy can help with resettling in the night rather than always feeding, and offering the dummy can help stretch out night feeds.

Babies can often learn to put a dummy back in for themselves at about 5 months old.

If you don't plan to use a dummy longer term, the earlier you wean it, the easier the weaning is likely to be!

Weaning off the dummy at this age

Many people recommend the 'cold turkey' approach of getting rid of the dummy, ie just stop offering it. Yes this will likely result in it being harder to settle your baby for a few days and result in more crying. But generally babies adapt to no dummy within a few days.

You may want to reduce use of the dummy first, such as only offering for sleep times rather than any time baby is unsettled.

You could remove the dummy as baby starts to settle, rather than leaving it in while baby actually falls asleep. There is a good technique for this called the 'Pantley Pull-Off', which Elizabeth Pantley explains in the No Cry Sleep Solution. The same technique can be used for weaning off breastfeeding to sleep.

Many people find introducing a safe comforter, such as a Cuski, helpful in the dummy weaning process.

You may need to use other settling techniques as your baby adjusts to not having a dummy, such as more rocking or patting or having a hand on them as they fall asleep. It is a good idea to think of these as a transitional stage and that you will reduce use of those alternative techniques before long too.

Community ideas on dummy weaning

Here's some ideas from our Facebook community on weaning off the dummy with little babies:

  • My boy (12months) had a dummy until he was nearly 6 months old. We only ever used it if absolutely necessary when other settling methods failed. He discovered his finger when he was about 2 months old and would happily suck that to settle down.

  • At 4 months my son went from perfect sleeper to up every 2 hrs all night. Ditched the dummy and was a very hard 3 nights but never gave it back and persisted with 10mins of leaving him to try and fall asleep, then hands on settling. He now goes to sleep with his fingers in his mouth and wakes twice a night at 5 months.

  • Fingers replaced the dummy, my daughter (now 17 months) did it herself once she knew where her hands were (about 4.5 months).

  • We started using a cuddly for every sleep around 3.5 months and gradually bubs preferred to use that or her hands. Only have the dummy as a last resort now but haven't used it in weeks (bubs is 5.5 months).

  • Cold turkey at 4 months, was much easier than we thought.

  • Got rid of it at 3.5 months and just went cold turkey. He was able to self settle with dummy and it didn't take much at all to give up.

  • Went cold turkey at 3 1/2 months. Only occasionally give it if she's VERY unsettled which isn't often. She sucks on her 50/50 Swaddle instead.

  • Went cold turkey at 3 months, he had found his fingers and had begun sucking on them instead anyway. It was only ever used as a last resort settling tool. He now sucks his thumb or sometimes his cuddly.

  • 4.5 months went cold turkey very hard but he coped well and we swapped it for a Cusky cuddly... Took about 48 hours for him to adjust and I'm glad we got rid of it when we did - I was getting up to put it back in at night and since giving it up he wakes once for a feed and that's it now 5 months old

  • Used the pick up put down sleep training technique. Took 15min first nap, 5min next nap and that was it. Really easy...i was super suprised!!

  • My boy is 3.5 months and has just found his thumb and replaced dummy with a cuddly toy let him have both for a few nights and now no more dummy for us (he takes it out so he can suck his thumb or his toy)

  • 3 months for our boy, replaced it with a Cuski which he still sleeps with 2 years on. No probs getting rid of the dummy.

  • With my 3 month old at the time just went cold turkey took 1 night of misery then never looked back, she is now 7 months and has never had or needed it again best move ever getting rid if it.

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