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Dummy Dilemmas

Is it a good or a bad habit?  Professionals and parents alike have argued over the pros and cons of the ‘dummy’ for ever, in an attempt to establish whether its use is an aid to calming or a hindrance to communication.

dummy

Studies in the 1980’s demonstrated that the tongue of the unborn foetus and newly born babies have specific tactile papillae which are specifically used for sucking and that these disappear by the sixth month. This generally coincides with the onset of weaning, of sensory integration and understanding of relationships with parents.

The need to suck will vary with each individual infant and its use of a dummy is determined by the child's physical and emotional make-up. The change from intrauterine to postnatal life can be overwhelming and therefore a ‘comforter’ whether a blanket, teddy or dummy, will help.

We recommend the following:

  1. Some babies need a dummy to calm down, others to ensure all is well and that waiting is not necessarily forever. Thumb-sucking is often an obvious alternative.
  2. Most children give up the dummy as they grow older and lose their sucking papillae and become able to communicate distress in other ways.
  3. If parents are concerned that the baby is overly fond of the dummy and cannot go without they should check:
    1. for the way their child looks at people and interacts with them, and
    2. how actively their baby accommodates to family life and relates to them in             different ways. Parent’s concerns are always important.
  4. The healthy use of a dummy can, just as easily, be converted into abuse if used for prolonged periods and as a substitute for food or, alternatively, to silence a child. It is important to regulate its use, as one would (doubtless) do later with television!
  5. Being watchful of your individual child’s needs.  If, whilst sucking the dummy, he appears vacant and disconnected, be aware and mindful of what else might be distracting or overwhelming him.  Explore fully. 
  6. Further tactics in helping you and your child to separate from the dummy is to ‘rehearse’ this with having a teddy or other toy 'give up' their dummy. Once this has been acted out many times with Teddy over several days, then one can carry out this story with the infant who will, surprisingly, take this on board. 

Finally, there is a health warning that dummies can be misused with prolonged use throughout the day or over years. This prolonged use can interfere with communication in several ways. By continually pacifying an infant the parent may miss the infant's signs of anxiety or feeling of loneliness. There are also suggestions that the use of a dummy can interfere with an infant's ability to discriminate between speech sounds. (As being able to freely move the tongue may be important in learning to perceive speech - http://www.pnas.org/content/112/44/13531.full.pdf)

Some use of a dummy may be helpful for your baby. However, it is understanding and talking to your baby that will help to develop their inner security, better interactions and healthier relationships.


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Welcome to ourAdvice, where we share our views on topics of interest to parents.
We are keen to know your views and so please do comment on our articles.
Is there a topic that you would like us to write about? Just send us a message via 'Contact us'.

ourNews, our other blog, has more general posts, including reviews of recent research.

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