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So…Dummies. To use or not to use (or rather when to use)

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I attend lots of baby groups and talk to parents about the use of a dummy for sleep and the age of the child.  I am not against the use of a dummy but there are times when they can hinder sleep. To help understand the effects of dummies from a dental and sleep perspective I asked my friend to write me a little blog about the use of dummies from a dental and parent perspective.

The NHS and The Lullaby Trust recommend the use of a dummy up to the age of 6 months. Studies found that the use of a dummy in the early months can reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Tara Conway
BChD, MJDF RCS Eng, MClinDent in Fixed and Removable Prosthodontics

I am writing this as a dentist and a mum of two. If I had been asked to write this before having children, with just my dentist hat on, I think my perspective on the use of dummies would have been very different. I once would have said they are an absolute no- no and preach to patients to avoid where possible. They can have a significant detrimental impact on the positioning of teeth, becoming reliant on them is very easy and their later removal can be so difficult; however, that was before I was faced with the reality of a screaming baby…now, I do feel that if used correctly in the right context, they definitely have their place.

From a dental perspective the use of dummies should be kept to the first six months; after this point in time the teeth will start to erupt and regular dummy use will act like an orthodontic appliance and can drastically change the position of the teeth. Children who use them routinely overnight beyond the age of 6 months, and equally in the day time outside of short naps can develop what is called an anterior open bite, this is where the front teeth no longer meet, literally an opening between the top and bottom teeth which should not be there. This impacts greatly on speech, the ability to eat, not to mention the aesthetics. The longer they are used for in this way, the greater and the more drastic this new alignment of teeth will be. In severe cases, this malalignment of the baby teeth can then have an impact on the positioning and eruption of the adult teeth, as the adult teeth follow the path set out by the roots of the baby teeth.

As a new mum I started out completely anti dummies, however I was quickly introduced to them in NICU where we found ourselves with our daughter for about a month. They used them to pacify babies who were awake and unsettled in the lead up to feeding time, I quickly understood that they had a place in this soothing capacity, however, my daughter refused to keep one in at all. So that was that. With my second child, I have used one to pacify and soothe him, while I could not attend to him in that moment as I was busy with my older daughter, in a bid to keep my sanity and stop his crying. And I have settled on this use as a dentist and mother- the soothing and pacifying approach within the first 6 months.

Little Dreams Bath and Swindon – Dummy and Sleep

That was a dental perspective but how to dummies effect sleep and how to remove the dummy. 

✨ In some very rare cases a baby may need a dummy just to get to sleep and then not need it for the rest of the night. In most cases though a dummy can become something that a baby relies upon in order sleep through the night. This is also known as a ‘sleep prop’ and it can become an issue if your little one loses their dummy in the night. This may mean that when your baby comes to the edge of a sleep cycle and they no longer have their dummy, they may need you to return it to them (probably when you are asleep and dreaming of getting more sleep).

﹖You may want to remove the dummy but are not sure how.

⭐️ Before making any changes to what your little one is used to it is best to make sure that they are well and healthy.

✨ Under 18 months of age the quickest way to remove the dummy is simply to do just that. You may have a few difficult nights but this really is the best way.

✨ Over 18 months you may need to prepare your little one a bit more. First step is to remove the dummy around no sleep situations for several days before removing altogether. When the time comes to remove from naps and nighttime you may choose to introduce the idea of a whimsical scenario in which the dummy needs to be returned or commonly, return the dummy to be dummy fairies.

✨ The main thing to remember when introducing a new big change like dummy removal, is to remain consistent 100% of the time to avoid confusion.

If you have taken away the dummy and your little one is still waking lots in the night or would like some help with removing the dummy please get in touch. Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep

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