Scientific evidence collated by the Cochrane Collaboration (a global independent network of health experts) concluded that dummies do not interfere with breastfeeding with mums who are determined to breastfeed and in fact may protect young babies from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
On the downside, dummies are associated with several problems in babies and toddlers, including:
Many parents worry about dummy or pacifier use and feel judged if their baby or toddler uses one. An over-reliance on dummies can reduce opportunities for your toddler to talk and also negatively affect their teeth and jaw development.
For older children (those over the age of 12 months), dummies should only be used in response to specific soothing needs. So a dummy might still be used when your toddler hurts himself or goes to sleep but isn’t permanently in his mouth. Dummies can interfere with speech development in toddlers so restrict their use and make sure your toddler gets plenty of opportunities to talk, sing and chat during the day.
If your toddler has a dummy in his mouth, explain that you cannot understand what he is saying and if he takes it out you can then more easily understand him. Toddlers get very frustrated when they can’t be understood so this is a strong motivator to ditch the dummy during the daytime.
Some parents find a ‘coming of age’ ceremony, where their toddler voluntarily hands over their dummies to a ‘dummy fairy’, can help a toddler or pre-schooler stop using a dummy. In return, the dummy fairy leaves them a thank you present. However, this might be a little too sophisticated for younger toddlers as it’s quite a complicated concept to understand.
Instead, it might be easier to slowly reduce the situations in which your toddler is allowed to have his dummy. If there’s a time when you don’t want your child to use a dummy, for example, when you are out and about, stick to your guns but try to distract your child rather than be confrontational. This more gradual reduction in dummy use might make the transition easier for your toddler.
In a word, yes. Using a dummy and thumb sucking are often deeply-ingrained, comforting habits and weaning your child off them can be hard, upsetting and stressful for everyone. It can be so difficult that many parents wish they had never introduced a dummy in the first place and avoid introducing a dummy with subsequent children. Thankfully parents no longer put things like mustard on to their child’s thumb or dummy in a misguided attempt to wean their toddler, but it’s still a testing time that needs careful handling.
In terms of how to wean your child off his dummy, going ‘cold turkey’ will probably prove very stressful if he is very attached to it. Gradual withdrawal is gentler but it can take so long and be so protracted that the total amount of upset and crying might be the same as if you went cold turkey in the first place. That said, it’s the method I would recommend, and it will be easier for both you and your toddler if you have a rough plan so it’s easy for you to be consistent and for your toddler to accept the new rules.
So for example, you may want to get to a point where your toddler is only using his dummy for naps and going to sleep. Rather than move straight to that point, you could go for a few easier stages:
• Stage 1 – take your toddler’s dummy out every time you speak to him and explain with: ‘Mummy/Daddy can’t hear what you say with your dummy in.’
• Stage 2 – no dummy at mealtimes, again explain (each time): ‘Your mouth is eating now, so no dummy – you need to taste your yummy food and eat it all up so you can grow big and strong.’
• Stage 3 – no dummy outside of the house. Explain that your child can have his dummy at nap time or bedtime but not when you are out and about.
Jaafar SH, Jahanfar S, Angolkar M, et al. (2011) Pacifier use versus no pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration.
Jenik AG, Vain NE, Gorestein AN, Jacobi NE, for the Pacifier and Breastfeeding Trial Group. Does the recommendation to use a pacifier influence the prevalence of breastfeeding? Journal of Pediatrics 2009;155(3):350–4.
Kramer MS, Barr RG, Dagenais S, Yang H, Jones P, Ciofani L, et al. Pacifier use, early weaning, and cry/fuss behavior: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2001;286(3):322–6.