Pro’s and Con’s of Dummies….
Dummies are a great sleep prop early on – I have used a dummy for all 3 of my children in the early days and would have been lost without one.
I was your classic mum who sent her husband to buy a dummy at 10pm on day 6 of having my first baby, now I give them as baby shower gifts and smile when the expectant mother tells me she is “anti dummies”.
I forgot to pack the dummy: Third time round I called my husband in tears at 2am and made him promise to bring the dummy on day three to the hospital – this baby wanted to suck and I needed a nap!
Important point here, yes newborns need to feed a lot especially on day 2-3 to get the milk supply established, but I had already been awake in labour for 2 days and most of the 2 days following feeding feeding feeding, I needed one hours sleep to recover.
I made the decision to allow my husband to plug this baby with a dummy and carry him around keeping him happy and quiet while I napped, or I truly felt I would pass out. (turns out he had a posterior tongue tie hence the hunger – but that is a different blog post altogether).
I look at a dummy as a backup option or something to phase out, firstly try to settle your baby to sleep in their cot or bassinet, if 20 minutes has passed and your baby under 12 weeks is not settling to sleep, either offer them a top up feed and try again, or move to using a dummy.
Alternatively, settle them in your arms with the dummy. Once they are drowsy see if they will settle in their bed without the dummy, and just a pat if needed. This allows your baby to learn to drift off to sleep without the dummy. Once again, if this fails for more than 20 minutes, move to the dummy for this nap and try again next time.
Some babies are dream babies and will happily take a dummy at the start of a nap and happily go off to sleep it won’t slip out and they won’t squawk for you to come and replace the dummy, they will take it at 7pm and sleep until they are hungry.
Count your blessings
Other babies the dummy will slip in and out 4-10 times as you try to get them off to sleep, you will dream about using duct tape to hold it in, they will wake every 45 minutes throughout the day crying for their lost dummy – or at night every 2 hours you will be leaning over to pop that dummy back in…..
If this is you? The dummy has to go
If you are only using the dummy as a backup option, I like to have phased this out by 12 weeks.
Dummies used even intermittently after 12 weeks very easily become a little habit. A great way to ensure your baby rejects the dummy after 12 weeks is to not buy the bigger size up after you use a newborn dummy.
Get my 3-8 month sleep and feed guide here
Keeping the dummy
If you are happy using a dummy and wish to teach your baby to take the dummy, try tugging gently on the dummy as your baby sucks, this will teach him to suck harder as the dummy begins to fall out when he drifts off. Stay with him and do this for 10-15 minutes at the start of naps for a couple of days.
If you get to 5/6 months and your baby is still using a dummy and is learning how to replace the dummy himself a great investment is a sleepytot or try sewing little tails on your babies dummies from an old muslin swaddle to make it easy for him to find and replace his dummy at night.
Start to hand it to your baby to replace himself, if you always pop it in his mouth he will never learn to do it himself.
If you're teaching your newborn to do this, my newborn sleep and feed guide can be viewed here
Can you wean a dummy?
If you have reached the point where you want to get rid of the dummy as it is not helping you or your baby get better sleep, then unfortunately there is not “weaning” from a dummy. Using a dummy to calm your baby and then expect them to settle with no dummy is confusing.
Or using it for one nap and not the next – also confusing.
The best thing you can do is clear your diary for three days while you establish a new settling ritual in place of the dummy. You are creating a disassociation between sleep and the dummy, ideally working on self settling.
When I don’t like dummies…..
I worry when people are using dummies to encourage small babies, or babies who are not gaining weight to sleep for long spells at night. Night feeds are important in the early weeks in establishing and maintaining good milk supply.
I appreciate as a new mum you are exhausted, but if your baby has been asleep for 3 hours and wakes and you pop the dummy in to get 40 minutes more sleep, chances are your baby was hungry and will not go back to sleep – they will be quiet sucking away, but they won’t sleep well.
Then when they finally cry out for food again, they are almost over tired and only take a small feed – and then wake again 1-2 hours later, hungry again.
Don’t try to cut a feed short by using a dummy unless your Doctor or Midwife or Lactation consultant advises this. Allow your baby to take a full feed and decide when they are full. Try to use the dummy for settling to sleep, not in lieu of a feed.
Reflux and dummies
Some reflux babies rely heavily on dummies to get to sleep as the production of saliva lowers the pH in the stomach and constant sucking helps them not physically reflux and wake up.
BUT if you can rock your reflux baby to sleep, or walk them to sleep then chances are they don’t NEED the dummy. They probably like the dummy – but if neither of you are getting quality sleep, don’t be afraid to take the dummy off a reflux baby, and settle them with some other strategy.
It is very common for parents to come to us for help with self setting once their baby no longer has reflux, or medication has it under control.
Reflux babies often have spent a large part of their newborn stage crying in pain, this effects their temperament and can affect which sleep training techniques will work. I often hear my baby will go from zero to one hundred very quickly, this is super common for babies who used to suffer from reflux.
SIDS and dummies
Dummies lower the rates of SIDS in babies. Scientists believe due to the fact that the constant sucking means babies don’t go into a deep deep sleep – this can help prevent SIDS.
Wind and dummies:
Dummies can help your baby burp!
The downward pressure of the dummy on the tongue can help a baby release a burp. It also relaxes your baby, maybe the wind bubble is hurting their tummy and making them tense up, a relaxed baby, burps much more easily. If you struggling to burp your baby, try holding a dummy in as you burp them.
Dummies/Pacifiers, what ever your culture calls them.
They definitely have their place as a settling tool, a relaxing tool, and a sleep tool! But they also are responsible for a lot of broken sleep for older babies, and a lot of tired parents who are doing the dummy run multiple times a night.
Your dentist would rather your baby never had a dummy. I just encourage you to look at your dummy objectively.
Is your baby sleeping well? Don’t fix what aint broke!
Is your baby still a newborn? Plenty of time to reduce down the dummy dependency.
Is your baby old enough to find and replace their dummy? Teach them!
Is the dummy the reason neither of you are getting any sleep? Ditch it!
Need help with self settling, better sleep and dummies?
Our 9-18 month sleep guide has instructions for teaching babies old enough to find and replace their dummy to sleep like champs!
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
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My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
"We have just finished working with Daniela and I could not recommend her more highly. Our baby was waking frequently at night and every nap was a hard fought battle. We were exhausted and thought we had tried everything. Within 24hrs of working with Daniela we had a schedule that worked and our baby was self settling for the first time ever! Within days our baby stopped waking for night feeds and it became easy to put her down for naps! I can't believe the transformation. Daniela gave us the tools and the confidence to address any sleep issues going forward. We are so grateful. "
Thank you!" ~ Andrea Christie
"I just wanted to tell you I downloaded the toddler sleep guide last night, and started with sleep meditation, and popping the dummy on a sleepytot. Max settled in record time, and we didn't get any wake ups until 6am this morning! I really thought at 2 years old I had nothing left I could try and I would have to take Max's dummy away and try CIO. You saved us a lot of heart ache and drama, thank you, thank you!!!." ~ Candace and John
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