Are you for or against using a dummy?  This question will split any group of mothers (and often grandmothers too) straight down the middle.  The dialogue is of more importance now, however, as it is not just a question of preference since the FSID brought out new guidelines based on research that indicates dummy use can reduce cot death.

As we all know, the problem is not so much in using the dummy – it is being able to discontinue its use.  No one likes seeing a five year old with a dummy glued to his face, but the alternative can be unbearable.

So it is worth being absolutely clear about the guidelines and how to implement them.  If you start using a dummy at around one month old, just to settle a baby to sleep at the beginning of each of his sleep periods and do not re-insert it when it falls out, you will reduce the risk of cot death.  You need to keep using the dummy in this way until your baby is one year old, at which point the risk has passed and you can stop using it.  You should not force your baby to use the dummy if he seems not to like it.

What happens is that when a baby settles himself to sleep and is sucking on a dummy, you can watch him suck really hard to start with and gradually the speed and strength of the suck will diminish.  This reflects other things which are happening in his body – his breathing and heart rate will be slowing down, thus easing him into sleep.  It is thought that this gentle, controlled transition is good for avoiding cot death.  Also, if a baby is sucking on a dummy, he will need to be breathing through his nose.  Air brought into a baby’s body via the nasal tubes is warmed and filtered before it reaches the lungs and this, too, may have a beneficial effect.

The crucial phrase in the SIDS literature is that you only use the dummy to settle a baby when he goes to sleep and when it falls out you don’t reinsert it, thus avoiding dummy dependency.

For more information on anything mentioned in this article contact Georgie Bateman at Night Nannies on 01794 301762 or georgie@nightnannies.com.  The website is www.nightnannies.com. Information on infant death is available from the FSID, 020 7222 8001 or www.fsid.org.uk.

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