Sleeping with a Dummy/Pacifier? Here’s what you need to know!
The DumDum. The DooDoo, The DiDi The Paci. Regardless of what you call your baby’s dummy (also known as a pacifier to some), most parents have the same questions and concerns around them. Some of these questions are…
- Are dummies safe to use?
- When should I introduce a dummy?
- Should I feel ashamed that my baby is using a dummy?
- If I let my baby use a dummy now, will I ever be able to get rid of it or how do I get rid of it?
- Is it bad to let my baby sleep with their dummy?
Before we get into how dummies impact bedtime, let me bash a few dummy myths for you… SO, LET’S GO!
Myth number 1: Breastfed babies should never use dummies.
Speaking as a mum and as a certified & experienced sleep consultant, I can say this is 100% false. Just because you are or are planning to breastfeed doesn’t mean you have to throw out all those dummies away that you got at your baby shower.
Myth number 2: Dummies lead to dental issues.
Listen, I really can’t promise that your little one won’t need braces further down the line. But I can promise you it won’t be because you let them suck on a dummy as a baby!
Truth: For most babies, as long as you’re eliminating the dummy within the first 2 years, you won’t have any issues. I have spoken to many many dentists about this. We’ll get into when to wean them off the dummy a little bit later actually.
Myth number 3: Once you start, you’ll never be able to stop.
Truth: Dummies have been shown to lower the risk of SIDS, so some medical professionals (like midwives) actually encourage to use one with your newborn (especially during sleep), breastfed or not. However, my top tip is to make sure you have a well-established latch if you do want to introduce a dummy to your baby if you are breastfeeding. This is simply just to avoid nipple-confusion or any milk supply mishaps at the very beginning.
Other than that weird period of time in the ‘90s when dummies became a fashion trend (I was too young to remember this but I have read about it!), you don’t typically see adults walking around with a dummy in their mouth. So, I think we can all agree that this myth has been completely busted.
Truth: You might not be able to quit cold-turkey, but it is possible to wean your baby off the dummy. It’s all about the timing (keep reading for my tip number 4 below for more!).
Now that your worst dummy fears have been busted, let’s get to the good stuff: TALKING ABOUT SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP.
Dummy tip number 1: Stay safe.
First and foremost, make sure your dummy usage complies with safe sleep practices. Don’t use those cute dummy cords or clips in the cot. Yes, they might be helpful when baby’s awake, but at bedtime they are a hazard. Always follow safe sleep guidance for your little one. In the UK, The Lullaby Trust have lots of information on baby sleep safety.
Dummy tip number 2: Make sure it’s the right one.
Make sure it’s the right size for your baby’s mouth and that you’re washing it often to keep it germ-free. A friend of mine was using a newborn dummy size with her 11 month old! It’s very common to stop sterilising as your little one grows, but that doesn’t mean we should stop washing dummies.
Dummy tip number 3: Practice.
The reason dummies become a problem for sleep is because they tend to fall out of our little ones mouths while sleeping. So, what happens? Dummy falls out, baby wakes up, baby cries, and suddenly you’re sprinting as fast as you can to put the dummy back in for them… and before you know it you’ve made what feels like 500 trips to their cot to put the dummy back in. I call this the “dummy run”. Ah, the dummy run!
You can avoid this drama by making sure you let your baby practice replacing their own dummy during the day. Let them have a little play with their dummy. The sooner they learn to put it back in their own mouth, the sooner the “dummy run” will stop. Babies can usually find and replace the dummy pretty confidently by about 9 months of age (but some are sooner!).
Another tip is you can put a handful of dummies in your baby’s cot to make it easier for them to find and replace it on their own!
Once your baby learns how to replace the dummy on their own, chances are it won’t disrupt sleep at all! And there’s no reason why you can’t let them use it as a tool to help them self-soothe to sleep in my opinion. Just like you might need a certain pillow to fall asleep with…
Dummy tip number 4: Know when to wean.
After 6 months the risk of SIDS drastically drops, so the extra protection that the dummy gives isn’t as necessary any longer. I find the 4-month sleep regression is a good time for the dummy to be around if your little one IS using a dummy. If you are starting sleep training/support around 6 months, then this is a great time to think about ditching the dummy as you can teach your little one how to fall asleep independently without the need of a dummy – if you want!
If your little one is over the age of one and still has a dummy, then I recommend trying to get rid of it before their 2nd birthday if you can. For babies that are a little older, you can talk to them about the dummy - I really recommend the “dummy fairy” and you can explain she has come to take all the dummies away to give to the younger babies.
So, there you go. Myths busted and some top tips for you.
The biggest thing I will say is that the dummy is only a problem if you see it as a problem. Listen, if your little one is 18 months and still has a dummy for sleep and you’re fine with that, you keep doing what you are doing.