Well, both actually! Should I use a dummy for my baby? Dummies can be fantastic for newborn babies to help them to settle. Sucking triggers the calming reflex for newborns and this, combined with swaddling, white noise, and perhaps a bit or rocking or patting can be the perfect combination to send even the hardest to settle baby off to the land of nod. They can be especially helpful for babies who suffer from colic or reflux who often need a bit more assistance to be able to settle to sleep.
Although dummies are useful for newborns and older babies, there can come a point when they start to become a problem, and can go from a useful tool in your settling kit to being the reason baby is now waking 4 times a night needing you to plug the dummy back in for them. This doesn’t happen with every baby who has a dummy, many babies will use the dummy to get to sleep and then aren’t bothered in the slightest when it falls out overnight, they can still sleep all night long. Which is awesome, no need to do anything with these babies other than enjoy your restful nights! But some babies can’t do that. If the dummy falls out when they’re in a deep sleep, when they have a partial wake between the end of that sleep cycle and the start of the next, they will cry out, needing the dummy to be plugged back in. And this is when the problem starts. Baby isn’t getting the sleep they need with all these full wake ups overnight between sleep cycles, and neither are Mum or Dad, who are now finding themselves getting up and down all night long doing the dummy run.
The good news is that there comes a point, usually at around 7-8 months, where we can teach baby to find and replace their own dummy overnight. To do this we place the dummy in their hand for a few days instead of plugging it straight back into their mouth. If needed, guide their hand to their mouth so they start to get the idea. After doing this for a few nights (practice during the day too, whenever you give baby their dummy) then start placing the dummy on the mattress next to them, rather than in their hand. Tap the mattress next to the dummy if they’re still not picking it up so they understand what it is you’re asking them to do.
As well as this, using the ‘sprinkle method’ where you drop a load of dummies into the cot at night before you go to bed can help them to always be able to find a dummy easily when they wake. Attaching the dummy to something like a SleepyTot or a comforter is another great way to help them to be able to find their dummy overnight.
What do I do if my baby isn’t old enough to find and replace their own dummy yet? There is a gap between the newborn stage and when baby is able to learn to find their own dummy, and it’s a few months, which can be a really long time to potentially be getting up all night long to replace their dummy for them. In this instance I suggest taking the dummy away and sleep training, using an age-appropriate technique to help them to fall asleep without needing the dummy. This is fine to do from around 4 months up to 9 months, but once they get to 9/10 months they are usually really attached to their dummy and it’s just a bit mean to take it away! Then I suggest teaching them to find and replace their dummy.
If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep and you think the dummy might be the issue and you’d like some help resolving it, check out my packages here.