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Advice on dummies and thumb-sucking

Many parents have ideas and 'principles' about dummies (pacifiers, soothers) and thumb-sucking and what they want for their baby.

Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Advantages of a dummy
• If baby is contented by a dummy for a while, mum gets a break now and then.
• We don't know why, but the risk of SIDS/cot death is reduced if baby uses a dummy at night.
• A baby who wakes in the middle of the night falls asleep again more easily if it has a dummy.
• Babies find it easier to sleep in their own beds if they have a dummy.

Drawbacks of a dummy
• If a child loses its dummy in bed at night, it may wake up and wail for its parents to come and put the dummy back in its mouth because it can't do this itself.
• If a child has got used to a dummy, it is likely to crave a dummy for its first couple of years at least.
• This can cause a lot of upset and make it difficult to settle a child at night if the only dummy in the house has gone missing!
• There is a small risk of the teeth getting misaligned outwards if the child continues using a dummy for several years.
• A child aged three and over will have to learn to remove the dummy when it talks. Otherwise, there's a risk of delayed speech. Besides, you'll want to be able to understand what your child is saying!

Advantages of thumb-sucking
• The child decides, and can suck its thumb whenever it needs to. In the middle of the night too.
• The child's thumb is always 'to hand' and there is no risk of losing it or leaving it behind.

Drawbacks of thumb-sucking
• It is virtually impossible to control how much the child sucks its thumb.
• In some children, the teeth become so misaligned from years of thumb-sucking they have to have a brace fitted to straighten their teeth later. However, the teeth often straighten up naturally when the permanent teeth come through.
• The child's thumb is always there, so it may be difficult to break the habit.
• In some children, the skin of the thumb becomes sensitised and may develop slow-healing sores if it is always moist.

Further reading:
Weaning off a dummy or thumb
Dummies, the sucking reflex and feeling safe and secure
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