Soothers, dummies, pacifiers – we have many different names for them and they are a life saver for many parents! Why do soothers work for babies? Babies have a very strong sucking reflex so sucking can often have a strong and calming effect on infants. They may suck their thumbs or fingers if they don’t have a soother. So should you give your baby a soother? That is up to you as a parent but we have listed the advantages and disadvantages below to help you make this decision.
- A soother can help to calm and relax a baby. When they are sucking on the soother, they calm down, stop crying and relax.
- If your baby is crying for a bottle, the soother can calm them while you prepare their bottle.
- Sucking a soother can help your baby to fall asleep as they are calm and relaxed.
- Research has found that soothers can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- They are disposable. When it is time for your child to stop, you can throw the soother away. This is not possible if the child sucks their thumb or fingers.
- Sucking a soother may interfere with breastfeeding. Sucking on a breast if very different to sucking on a soother or a bottle and so it is better to wait until breastfeeding has been established before giving a soother. Also, when choosing a soother, try to get one that is designed for breastfed babies.
- Prolonged use of a soother can cause dental problems later with the positioning of teeth
- Experts advise that children should be weaned off soothers before they are two as they can be linked to reduce speech development
- Children can become dependant on the soother and it can be difficult to stop the use of the soother.
- Soothers can increase the number of middle ear infections
Tips If Using a Soother
So having weighed up the circumstances, if you do decide to give your child a soother, then follow some basic tips as follows:
- Wait until breastfeeding is established
- Try not to give the soother straight away if your baby is crying. First try to change their position, speak in a soothing tone or rock the baby to calm him/her.
- Keep the soother clean! Don’t suck it yourself to clean it. If you are still sterilising, have a few soothers so that you have spare soothers ready if the soother you are using is not clean.
- When buying a soother, check that it has passed safety guidelines
- Replace soothers where they are worn or damaged. A loose piece of rubber could be a choking hazard.
- If your child is continuously getting middle ear infections, discuss with your GP if the soother could be adding to the problem.
- Never tie a cord or string to the soother as it could danger if it becomes wrapped around your baby’s neck.
Giving Up The Soother
So what about when you want the child to give up the soother? Many children is stop using the soother on their own, between the age of 2 and 4. In some cases, the child will not stop voluntarily and you may need to encourage and help your child to stop. Chat to other parents for tips about how they weaned their child off the soother and consider some of the following suggestions:
- Reduce the use by using star charts with reward stickers to encourage your child to gradually wean themselves off the soother.
- Use distraction to take the child’s mind off the soother when they look for the soother.
- Talk about your child being a ‘big boy’ or a ‘big girl’ now to encourage them to stop
- If someone you know has a new baby, maybe suggest that he/she gives the soother to the baby
- Arrange to leave the soother out for the ‘fairies’ or ‘santa’ and when they take it away, they will leave a small reward
So keeping all of the above in mind, make your own decision about what you want and what works for you and your baby. Remember, every child is different so make your decision on what works for your family and not what other people are “advising” you to do!