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Using Dummies – Pros and Cons


Not all babies take to dummies. Some prefer their own fingers or thumbs while others have no particular need for anything.

The benefits of dummies:
1. Studies have shown use reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
2. Dummies can help babies soothe themselves, and they satisfy the suck reflex.
3.When you are ready to wean the child, it’s easier to wean from a dummy than his or her own thumb.

However, limits in the usage and length of time used should be kept in mind.

Children should begin to be weaned from the dummy just before their first birthday. Parents should ensure that their children not overuse or have over-dependence on the dummy. It should satisfy the intense need to suck, not to replace or delay nurturing.

No studies show benefits of prolonged use of a dummy. Parents should help their children develop the ability to fall asleep on their own without dummies as they grow.

Studies have linked dummy use with a higher risk for ear infections. One study showed that children who did not use dummies had 33% fewer middle-ear infections. More than two ear infections within a year before the age of 2 can have significant effects on adequate speech development and perception of auditory information.

Continuous sucking on a dummy causes the auditory tubes to become abnormally open, which allows secretions from the throat to seep into the middle ear. This transmission of bacteria in the secretions may lead to middle ear infections.

The overuse of a dummy can interfere with speech development. It frequently causes the tongue to push forward between the teeth and can cause the upper teeth to tip forward toward the lip, or the formation of a high narrow palate.

Dummies can interfere with development of tongue-tip movement needed for some sound productions. Overuse may negatively affect the speech skills of children if used for an extended period.
If the child’s mouth is always occupied with a dummy, there can be a delay in appropriate verbalizations (babbling and imitation of sounds) and expressive language development. Talking with a dummy in the mouth may affect normal speech sound motor movement. Children can choose to keep the dummy in and point to have their needs and wants met instead of making the attempts to use sounds and words, leading to delayed communicative development.
If dummies are used after age 2, there is an increased risk of developing protruding front teeth and improper bite, which also affects speech production. Prolonged use can affect the alignment of the teeth and changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth.

Using a dummy can really help settle a baby. However, parents should consider when, where, and why it is being used. Allowing dummy use as a habitual part of the child’s day will likely increase dependence and negatively affect important things like speech development, regulation and dentition, and may lead to an increase in ear infections.

The more a child becomes dependent on the dummy, the harder the struggle will be to wean the child. Keep in mind that what you are doing now will determine how easy or difficult it will be for you and your child when it comes time for weaning from it in the future.

Adapted from Marla Zerbib, M.A., CCC/SLP
Nicole Torre, Perth Speech Pathology