Updated: Sep 14
Dummies and newborns
When to introduce it
A dummy is a great tool for calming your newborn and can be especially helpful when your little one is using your nipple like a dummy. But when should you introduce a dummy and will it cause issues as your little one gets older?
I highly recommend introducing a dummy early on and it is absolutely fine to give your newborn a dummy from day one. According to a study giving a dummy before breastfeeding is established does not have an adverse effect on breastfeeding.
It reduces the likelihood of excessive wind which is good for sleep
It offers a protective factor against SIDS
Great tool for helping your baby to settle to sleep
Helpful in extending times in between feeds to encourage full feeds and avoid snacking
Great for car trips, walks, supermarket etc. to distract them when they need a feed but it cannot happen right then and there
Helpful for babies with reflux as it aids saliva production and reduces the acidity in the stomach
Can impact weight gain if dummy is used in place of a feed
Dummy can tire baby out if used 2-3 hours since last feed and baby is really unsettled
How to use the dummy
If you don’t want your baby to develop a suck to sleep association it is best to either use it outside of sleep (in between feeds but not at nap or bedtime) or use it to settle your baby until drowsy and then removing it before they fall asleep completely. Should you wish to introduce the dummy to help with sleep you can teach your little one to hold onto it for longer by gently pulling on it when it is in their mouth.
When and how to get rid of the dummy
If your newborn is missing out on consolidated sleep because they wake up every time the dummy falls out and you have attempted to strengthen the suck unsuccessfully it is best to get rid of the dummy before it becomes a very strong sleep association. This usually becomes evident in babies aged 8 weeks and older.
You can start by only using the dummy during settling and removing it before your little one falls asleep completely. Also insure your baby’s sleep environment is spot on so they can develop other sleep associations before taking the dummy away completely. Once your little one settles to sleep easily and falls asleep without it, you can remove the dummy entirely.
Dummies and 3 - 6 months old
How to use the dummy
It is best not to introduce a dummy at this age if your baby has never used one before. If your baby is still using one at this age it is a good idea to keep it at least up until 4 months of age as your baby is likely still learning to self-soothe and is going through lots of development (i.e. dreaded 4 month sleep regression).
Should you plan on keeping it for the longer term, it is best using it for only 1 sleep a day or as a back-up when your little one is really unsettled. This is to ensure that your baby can still develop self-settling skills and consolidate naps independently. It is still a great tool to help your baby sleep, especially if your little one has a very strong feeding to sleep association. Keep the dummy as a back-up option with a baby that is still fully swaddled and can't use their fingers to self-soothe.
When and how to get rid of the dummy
In this age group, a good time to get rid of the dummy is once your baby is unswaddled and can suck on their fingers to self-soothe, so around 4 months of age. It is also best to get rid of the dummy entirely before it becomes a very strong sleep association. The dummy can still be removed gradually around 3-4 months of age but it is best to remove it cold turkey with a baby that is close to 6 months of age and use other sleep associations in place of the dummy.
When doing it gradually, simply use the dummy to help calm your baby and remove it once your baby is drowsy before they fall asleep. In this age group after about 2 days your little one will forget that they ever had a dummy, which is why it is the perfect age to get rid of it.
Dummies and 6 - 8 months old
How to use the dummy
Should your baby still use a dummy in this age group it is best to get rid of it cold turkey as it will otherwise become a very strong sleep association and your little one is still a bit too young to successfully learn to find and replace the dummy. This is especially recommended if you are sleep training using controlled crying or cry it out. Using the dummy as a back up at this age, will not be as successful as your baby will most likely cry until they are given the dummy.
It is also not recommended to introduce a dummy at this stage if your little one has not previously used one.
How to get rid of the dummy
When doing gentle sleep training, you could keep the dummy in the beginning stages but as sleep training goes on it is best to remove it as your baby will not be able to connect sleep cycles if they wake up every time the dummy falls out. In this age group, removing the dummy is harder so it might take 1 week of consistency before your little one is able to self-settle without a dummy. As stated above, cold turkey is best with this age group.
Dummies and 8 months - 2.5 year olds
Once your baby is 8 months old and using a dummy, taking it away is not recommended until closer to 2.5 years of age as it will have become a deep-rooted sleep association at this age. Should you wish for your baby to learn to self-settle nonetheless it is best to teach them to find and replace the dummy.
Again, introducing a dummy at this stage is not recommended if baby has not used a dummy previously.
Find and replace
In this age group your little one should be able to learn how to find and replace the dummy. In order to be more successful with this, you can get your little one a comforter and attach several dummies to it (provided your baby is 12 months+ for safety reasons) or put several dummies in her cot. Follow the below steps to teach your little one to find and replace, simply move on to the next step once your baby has mastered the previous one.
Start off by handing the dummy to your baby and guiding their hand to their mouth
Hand the dummy to your baby
Hand the comforter to your baby
Put the comforter on your baby’s chest
Pat the mattress where the dummy is
Should you not be using a comforter, go from putting the dummy into your baby’s hand to putting the dummy in the cot and patting the mattress where it is.
It is important to never put the dummy in your baby’s mouth yourself as this will make them cry until you replace the dummy. Don’t let your baby make a game out of it, should they throw the dummy out of the cot, put it back in intermittently if using an in-the-room method or during check-ins if using controlled crying.
Removing the dummy over 2.5 years
Once your child is good at regulating their emotions and understands the concept of rewards, it is a good time to get rid of the dummy, should you wish to do so. This is usually around 2.5 years of age but if your little one is not there yet, it is best to wait a little bit longer.
Once your child is ready, put a plan in place by coming up with a great reward that your child will accept in place of the dummy. Prepare your child by explaining the day before what will happen so your toddler is not caught by surprise and has some time to process the change. Explain that X (their favourite superhero, princess, fairy) will come for a visit the next day to take the dummy away and bring it to another baby that needs it.
On the day, take your child outside and let them hang the dummy on a tree (put it in a bag). Then go back inside and distract your little one with an activity and explain that X will arrive soon to take the dummy away. While your little one is distracted, throw the dummies away, put the reward in place and sprinkle some ‘fairy/superhero dust'.
If in the coming days your little one asks about the dummies just explain that all of them are gone and distract her with an activity. She will most likely have forgotten all about her dummy a couple of days later.
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