Dummy dilemma


Nearly 9 in 10 British parents use a dummy to soothe their children, but more than half don’t know the right time for children to give it up, putting teeth and speech development at risk.

The NHS advise parents to stop giving dummies between six and 12 months old. Using dummies after this can encourage an open bite, which is when teeth move to make space for the dummy. There is also concern that dummies may affect children’s speech development.

Laura Smart, dentist at Birmingham Dental Hospital and Leicester CDS-CIC, says: ‘Children who use a dummy or suck their thumb are more likely to have problems with the way their teeth bite together. The risk of this happening increases the more children use a dummy and the older they are when they give the dummy up. To reduce the effect of dummies on the teeth, they should ideally be given up by 24 months at the latest.’

The Lullaby Trust website says: ‘Using a dummy when putting your baby down to sleep might reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If you do offer a dummy, it is recommended you wait until breastfeeding has been established, typically when your baby is about one month old. It should be gently withdrawn between 6 and 12 months, to avoid possible longer-term problems associated with dummy use, including ear infections or misalignment of teeth.’

Dad of two, and Dumbleby Forest author, Mark White says: ‘My wife and I had tried all sorts, but our daughters are strong-willed, and we took the path of least resistance for too long. They found it incredibly hard to say goodbye to their dummies for good and only did so after I created a magical world for the dummies to disappear to (Dumbleby Forest).

‘Dummies are often the first real possession that children recognise as theirs; it’s understandable they are reluctant to let them go. It’s hard for parents to let go of that crutch too.’ Mark’s bedtime story to help parents and little ones say goodbye to the dummy is available at www.dumblebyforest.com,, price £5.79, or from Amazon.

Safe dummy use

  • Never use a dummy with a neck cord or other attachments as this may lead to choking.
  • Don’t force your baby to take a dummy or put it back in if your baby spits it out.
  • Don't put anything sweet on the dummy.
  • Keep it as clean as possible by regularly sterilising as you would any other bottle or feeding teat.
  • Check dummies regularly as cracks, splits and holes can trap germs

* https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/reducing-risk-cot-death/

* https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/looking-after-your-infants-teeth/