Also known as pacifiers, binkies, soothers…

I know this topic strays a bit from the whole ‘pregnancy and fitness’ thing, but we were on a plane the other day when we saw this 3-4 year old kid with a dummy in and hubbie commented “isn’t he kinda old to have a dummy?”

Dummies have been around for yonks – they’ve taken many forms: corn cob, coral, ivory, bone, and cloth wrapped around sugar/ meat/ fat/ bread (sometimes they used to soak the cloth in brandy) – actually that sounds like a lovely adult treat!

They took their current form around the 1900s – interestingly, in the UK they were seen as something the ‘poorer classes’ used and were associated with poor hygiene (one London doctor complained that “if it falls on the floor it is rubbed momentarily on the mother’s blouse or apron, licked by the mother and replaced in the baby’s mouth”). I’ll refer back to this later…

To dummy or not to dummy…

Some pros of using a dummy:

  • Protection against SIDS: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents consider offering pacifiers to infants one month and older at the onset of sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (note this is at the onset of sleep, not once they are already sleeping);
  • Helps infants sooth themselves: some say it helps with crying / colic. From what I’ve gathered, colic is the kind of thing where you’ll try ANYTHING to stop the screaming;
  • Satisfies the suck reflex: the suck reflex is a primitive reflex, present in all mammals at birth. The time for which a baby needs to suck is much less than the time on a bottle/ breast, so apparently the dummy helps with the other times baby needs to suck, but doesn’t need to feed as such;
  • Analgesic effects: shown in infants undergoing painful procedures in hospitals (eg. Heel pricks, vaccinations, blood taking);
  • Shorter hospital stays for pre-term infants;
  • Less allergic illness: a recent study in Pediatrics found that the kids of parents who ‘cleaned’ their dummy by sucking it were less likely to have asthma and eczema than kids whose parents didn’t use this cleaning technique. They conclude that parental sucking of their infant’s pacifier may reduce the risk of allergy development, possibly via immune stimulation by microbes transferred to the infant via the parent’s saliva. So that fuddy duddy London doctor I mentioned earlier can suck on it. No pun intended. But quite amusing given the context.

Some cons of using a pacifier:

  • Increased otitis media (middle ear infections): The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend weaning children from pacifiers in the second six months of life to prevent otitis media. The increased otitis media from 6 months onwards in dummy-users is thought to be due to the change of pressure between the middle ear and the upper throat induced by sucking;
  • Nipple confusion: the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that all mothers be educated about dummy use in the immediate postpartum period (best to avoid up until at least 1 month old) to avoid difficulties with breastfeeding;
  • Decreased duration of breastfeeding: many ‘baby-friendly’ hospital initiatives advise that no dummies should be given to breastfeeding infants on the basis of observational studies that report an association between dummy use and shortened duration of breastfeeding. This doesn’t seem to ring true as high-level evidence based studies do not support an adverse relationship between pacifier use and breastfeeding duration or exclusivity. It is thought that the association between shortened duration of breastfeeding and pacifier use in observational studies likely reflects a number of other complex factors, such as breastfeeding difficulties or intent to wean;
  • Effect on dentition & speech: this is usually only in kids that use a pacifier for waaay too long – usually in kids from 2-4 years old.

Bottom line:

  • There are things in the world more evil than dummies;
  • If you want to consider giving one to your kid: best time would be from 1-6 months’ of age, use an age-appropriate one (for instance, one meant for a younger child may present a choking hazard to an older child), make sure it’s made from a safe substance (eg. bisphenol A free);
  • Don’t sweat it if you use a dummy and everyone around you is giving you dirty looks – our bub hasn’t even come out yet but I’m sure there will be times when, just for some peace and quiet, I’ll be giving him one, probably soaked in spirits…*

* Again, I do not plan to force feed nor do I encourage others to force feed their children with hard liquor. Sad I know but this needs to be stated lest I get sued by the ‘association of kids with alcoholic liver disease because their parents force-fed them alcohol’. Sad sad world.

PS: I honestly did not know, but there is a whole market for adult pacifiers out there – used by the Adult Baby community, at parties and raves, and by adults who snore. Fascinating…


  • Gederi A, Coomaraswamy K, Turner PJ. Pacifiers: a review of risks vs benefits. Dent Update. 2013 Mar;40(2):92-4, 97-8, 101.
  • Sexton S, Natale R. Risks and benefits of pacifiers. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Apr 15;79(8):681-5.
  • O’Connor NR, Tanabe KO, Siadaty MS, Hauck FR. Pacifiers and breastfeeding: a systematic review. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Apr;163(4):378-82. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.578.
  • Nelson EA, Yu LM, Williams S; International Child Care Practices Study Group Members. International Child Care Practices study: breastfeeding and pacifier use. J Hum Lact. 2005 Aug;21(3):289-95.
  • Hesselmar B, Sjöberg F, Saalman R, Aberg N, Adlerberth I, Wold AE. Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development. Pediatrics. 2013 May 6.

If you have found a spelling or grammatical error, please notify me by highlighting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.


One Comment

  1. Pingback: Updated SIDS Guidelines – Push Ups, Pull Ups & Pregnancy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *