Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Can babies sleep with dummies or pacifiers is one of the most common questions I hear from my families. There are certainly both pros and cons associated with the use of a dummy. In this post I hope to give you an insight as a sleep consultant into how dummies can be useful with those babies who are comforted by them. I have to tell you though, it’s very individual as dummies can be of benefit for some babies but not others, and in some cases can present as a challenge down the track. For that reason I am also going to reveal my approach to helping you successfully remove the dummy if it becomes a nuisance!

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Can Babies Sleep With Dummies

Tip 1 – How to determine if a dummy might be useful for your newborn

My suggestion when you have your new baby is to observe your baby and their behaviour during settling and sleep time to help determine whether a dummy might be useful. The reason is dummies can be useful for newborn babies who are calmed by sucking, however they do not suit every baby.

Tip 2- How to feed with a dummy?

When it comes to feeding and how this relates to using a dummy, it may be worth considering if you are breastfeeding to hold off using a dummy for the first few weeks until you get feeding well established. The reason is that this may cause some sucking confusion in those first few weeks and then may lead to difficulties with attachment to the breast. 

However, many families have found dummies useful in the first few months when they know their fussy baby is just sucking to soothe themselves rather than for hunger.

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Tip 3- How to manage Settling and Sleep Associations

One of the biggest challenges linked with using a dummy is the fact that it is a ‘parent dependent’ sleep association until your baby can learn to replace it themselves. One of the ways that you can avoid this sleep association is by removing the dummy once your infant is calm and drowsy such as, removing just before they go to sleep. This will help to break the sleep association, resulting in less dependency on the dummy and you!

Tip 4- How to avoid waking through sleep cycles with a dummy

Just like adults, babies and toddlers go through a pattern of sleep cycles during sleep. As babies and toddlers move between sleep cycles they can stir or wake as they are experiencing “light sleep”. For this reason if your baby is using a dummy they will most likely require the dummy to be present to be able to return to sleep. This is when it can become problematic for many parents/carers. If you want avoid your child waking through sleep cycles and your child is at an appropriate age, around 6 months onwards it might be worth showing them how to place the dummy back in their mouth. For babies who are younger you can try removing the dummy right before they fall asleep but while they are still drowsy, therefore avoiding the sleep association.

baby sleeping with dummy

Tip 5 – How to deal with baby losing her dummy

It is highly likely that at some stage your baby will lose their dummy during sleep. Between around 4-8 months old it can prove a really tricky time for most families, as until babies learn to replace it themselves, they will require you to do it for them. This can often lead to sleep disturbances such as catnapping and night waking. If your baby is under 6 months, you may want to consider weaning her off the dummy altogether, however, with an older child you could try attaching the dummy safely to her nightclothes and encourage her to replace it herself.

Here are a few steps you could follow to achieve this for an older child:

– Place the dummy in your babies hands
– Gently guide their hand to their mouth rather than placing it in for them
– Putting a couple of dummies in the cot for her to find is also a helpful solution
– Allow them to hold the dummy or practice with it during the day outside sleep time

Tip 6 – How to avoid a sleep association with the dummy

My families often ask me if it is possible to use a dummy with their baby without them forming a sleep association to it. My opinion is that with a young baby this is possible, but as you child becomes older it becomes much more challenging. To avoid the sleep association with the dummy as I mentioned earlier in the article, I recommend removing the dummy when your baby is calm (drowsy) before they go to sleep. This should allow them to gradually learn to go back to sleep without it as part of their normal bedtime routine.

Tip 7 – How to determine the right time to remove the dummy

Such a tough questions as this is so individual, as every baby develops different levels of attachment; there is no one size fit’s all approach! If your baby has developed a sleep association of only being able to go to sleep with the dummy, then most likely when your baby wakes during their sleep cycles they will require the dummy to be present to fall back asleep. Until your baby can replace the dummy for themselves this, can lead to quite a lot of parent involvement at sleep time. 

You will need to teach your child a new association for going to sleep, such as holding a comforter or by patting initially and gradually reduce the dummy usage altogether. When you decide to do this, my belief is that is best to go cold turkey with it, to provide consistency and routine for your baby.

However, there are certain ages, which I believe are your ‘go’ time with this! I suggest removing the dummy before 6 months if you are going to do it, as once babies reach this age they begin to develop ‘object permanence’ meaning they will understand that they have a dummy and will probably have a strong emotional connection to it.

After 6 months of age, it can often be very challenging to change this sleep association without them understanding the reason behind this. For a baby with a strong dummy dependence and a baby fighting sleep as a result, I would suggest leaving it till they are around 2 years of age so that they have the ability to comprehend why you are removing it.

Finally be mindful if your baby is unwell that they may find comfort with a dummy so during sickness its not advisable to attempt to remove the dummy. Specifically a middle ear infection when sucking on the dummy may actually help relieve pressure in the ear.

Tip 8 – How to successfully remove the dummy

If you believe you and your family are ready to attempt removing the dummy from your infant, here is an approach you could try:

– Try to reduce usage of the dummy less and less during the day to reduce the dependency on it
– As you feel more confident try and use the same approach at night
– If the above steps aren’t effective you may want to consider removing the dummy altogether and start settling your baby without the dummy during their first day nap. To achieve this I suggest you follow my point by point guide to settling which uses response based settling techniques to help your baby find sleep during nap times.
– Once you have had success settling your baby for sleep without the use of a dummy during the day, only then try at night.

If you are firm in your decision to wean your baby off their dummy and the time is right for you and family, then I highly recommend throwing our all your dummies so you will not be tempted to go back to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do dummies reduce SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)?

The use of dummies, or pacifiers, has long been a controversial topic when it comes to infant health and safety. While some believe that they can help reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), others remain skeptical.

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Research suggests that the use of dummies may be beneficial in reducing the risk of SIDS. Studies have shown that babies who use a dummy are less likely to die from SIDS than those who do not. However, it is important to note that this does not mean that dummies are a foolproof way to prevent SIDS, and parents should still take necessary precautions such as sleeping their infant on their back, using a safe sleep surface, and avoiding overheating.

When to start using a pacifier if baby is premature?

If your baby was born prematurely, it is recommended to wait until they reach 37 weeks before introducing a pacifier. Premature babies can often have difficulty sucking and latching onto a pacifier, so it is important to wait until they are more developed. Additionally, before introducing a pacifier to your premature baby, be sure to first consult with your pediatrician for their opinion on the matter.

Do dummies affect speech and language development?

Dummies, or pacifiers, can be a great tool for calming and soothing babies. However, there is some debate about whether they have an effect on speech and language development.

Some experts believe that a baby’s use of a dummy can interfere with their ability to learn to talk and understand language. They suggest that when sucking on a dummy, babies miss out on the opportunity to hear and practice different sounds, which can hinder their language development. On the other hand, research suggests that it is not the dummy itself that affects speech and language development, but rather the amount of time a baby spends with a dummy in their mouth. Therefore, if you do choose to give your baby a dummy, be sure to limit its use as much as possible. 

Infographic of the top FAQs on how to manage with a dummy for your baby

Final Thoughts

So can babies sleep with dummies? Hopefully the above information was helpful in helping you decide what is right for your baby and family when it comes the usage of a dummy. If you would like more specific advice on how to manage the use of a dummy or you are looking to remove the dummy with your newborn or baby and want to disrupt the impact on their sleep or then please do get in touch with me via here or give me a call on 0406 344 010.

Catherine Completely Baby Sleep Consultant

Catherine Thompson
Baby Sleep Consultant & Owner of Completely Baby

Did you find this article helpful? I am a highly experienced baby sleep consultant with a unique educational and healthcare background who supports tired parents to help their babies find sleep more easily. If you want to chat about your situation please book in a free chat today by clicking the below button now! Alternatively you can text or call me on: +61 406 344 010.