How To Choose a Dummy For Your Baby
There are so many different views when it comes to dummies. Some mums won’t allow their kids to have anything but non-toxic natural rubber dummies, some think they are a little pricey, some want different colours to match different outfits, while others think you should find another settling tool because dummies can cause nipple confusion in breastfed babies and could affect your child’s teeth. With so many differing opinions it’s hard to know how to choose the best dummy for your baby.
The good news is you can take steps to avoid nipple confusion, you just need to establish breast feeding first. It’s recommended you don’t introduce a dummy to an exclusively breastfed baby until 6 weeks. If you’re formula or mix feeding you can use it from day one without any risks.
Dummies only tend to cause dental issues when they are used beyond the age of two years. On the flip side there has been evidence to suggest they may even reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but best of all they are a great soothing tool that can help new mamas get some much needed shut eye (until the next feed at least).
There are so many options on the market these days, how do you decide which on is right for your baby? This dummy guide will help guide and answer all your questions.
There are a few things to consider:
- Which nipple shape should you choose?
- What dummy material is best?
- What size should you get?
- What are the key things to look for when buying a dummy?
- What type of dummy is best for newborns?
- What dummy is best for breastfed babies?
- How to get a baby to take a dummy?
Which nipple shape should you choose?
There are a couple of options in dummy teat or nipple shapes, round (also called cherry) or orthodontic.
Round is the most common because it’s a similar shape to that of an actual nipple or a bottle teat which provides positive associations with the comfort babies get from feeding.
Orthodontic or “ortho” style teats are flat on the bottom and round on the top. The idea is that they sit flat on the tongue and don’t push up as far into the jaw which helps prevent any potential dental issues.
Some babies prefer one style over the other so it’s simply a matter of testing them out.
What dummy material is best?
There are a few different options:
- 100% Natural rubber – This is the most natural option of the three as natural rubber dummies are simply made from sap extracted from the rubber tree which is a great natural non-toxic material. This means they are a great choice for parents who want to avoid harmful toxins and synthetic manmade materials. Most dummies are BPA free but natural rubber dummies are also free from chemicals such as PVC, phthalates, parabens and chemical softeners. Plus one piece natural rubber dummies are great because they don’t have parts that can separate, or joints where bacteria can get stuck. However, they can be more expensive than the traditional ‘supermarket’ dummy. They are also a great option for the eco-conscious as they’re biodegradable—although it does take a while. While rubber is considered one of the safest options there are some downsides, it breaks down quicker because it doesn’t contain chemical preservatives or chemical softeners which means they will have to be replaced more frequently (6-8 weeks) and some children have latex allergies, which means its recommended they don’t use natural rubber dummies even though the allergen protein is removed during production.
- Silicone – This is a synthetic manmade material, but food-grade silicone is a little more durable, easy to clean and doesn’t retain odours like rubber can. They can come as a safe single piece as well but don’t always. They are a little sturdier than rubber dummies and can last longer but they aren’t as soft and flexible as rubber.
- A mix of both – Some dummies try to offer the best of both worlds with a natural rubber teat and a silicone or hard plastic shield. They often look rather nice, but we would highly recommend a dummy made from a single piece, as multiple parts means there is a chance they can separate and become a choking hazard or provide joins where bacterial or fuzzies can get trapped. There are nice-looking dummies available that are made as one piece.
What size should you get?
The size depends on the brand, but midwives have suggested that a large (larger than you might think) round or cherry teat is best for baby, as the larger teat allows your baby to hold the dummy in. Most brands come with a size guide for your babies age, but this is just a guide and really up to you.
What are the key things to look for when buying a dummy?
Here are a few things to consider when finding the best dummy:
- A single piece is the safest and most hygienic – Red Nose Australia recommends buying a dummy that has been made into one rather than multiple parts (Separate nipple, shield and ring). A one-piece design means that parts can’t separate and become choking hazards and there aren’t joins where bacteria and germs can accumulate.
- Look for Australian Safety standards - Make sure they meet Australian standards as those dummies have been confirmed safe for Australian babies because they have been made and tested with Australian guidelines in mind.
- Look for non-toxic material – All dummies that meet Australian standards should be BPA free, but you can go one further and choose an extremely non-toxic material for your baby. Natural Rubber is a great option and not only are you protecting them from chemicals such as PVC, phthalates, parabens and chemical softeners, but it is softer so babies won’t get red marks on their face.
- If you’re breast feeding, there are dummies made specifically for you– Some dummies have large shields that touch your babies nose like a breast and help emulate that comfort bubs get from feeding. These dummies are often made from soft rubber that feels more like the soft skin of a breast than a harsh plastic shield.
- If you can, think of the world around as not all dummies are created equal – Look out for dummies that are ethically and sustainably made. You can even get dummies like those made from natural rubber, that are also good for the planet because they are biodegradable. It’s also a great opportunity to support Australian businesses, such as buying Australian dummies from Australian baby boutiques.
What type of dummy is best for newborns?
Dummies are so helpful when settling babies, particularly in the early days when a newborn’s sucking relax is very strong and plays a big role in calming them down.
The good news is mix feed or bottle-fed babies have the benefit or being able to use a dummy from day one without any risk. However breastfeeding mums are recommended to establish breast feeding before introducing a dummy. The recommendation is that they wait 4-6 weeks before offering a dummy. After that, the risk of nipple confusion disappears.
With that in mind what is the best dummy for a newborn? The key is to find a safe dummy so giving them a dummy made from only one piece and not attaching it to their clothes with a string or ribbon is so important.
Breastfeeding newborns also benefit from a large cherry teat as the bigger bulb allows them to hold the teat in their mouth. Finding a dummy with a big soft shield that touches their little nose will also help give them even more comfort as the nose touch simulates breastfeeding.
All babies, not just newborns, should have the most non-toxic version available hence consider an option like natural rubber which means they can avoid sucking on chemicals such as PVC, phthalates, parabens and chemical softeners.
What dummy is best for breastfed babies?
Firstly, you should wait until your feeding is well-established so that your supply won’t be impacted and there is no nipple confusion. This can take between 4-6 weeks but once you’ve established feeding there are a few things to look for. They are essentially features that simulate the comfort babies get from breastfeeding:
- A round or cherry teat mimics the shape of a nipple.
- Very soft material because once again it’s a similar feeling to the skin of a nipple -rubber is naturally softer than silicone.
- A big enough bulb on the teat to keep the dummy in their mouth.
- A large soft shield that touches their nose as it’s designed to give them even more of a reminder of breastfeeding and the comfort it brings.
How to get a baby to take a dummy?
Some babies need a little more encouragement taking a dummy. This certainly doesn’t mean they don’t like the dummy, only that they need some help learning what to do. Whether they are not taking it or confused and pushing it out, here are some tips to help encourage your baby to take a dummy:
- Offer it when bub is relaxed – Usually the time you want to introduce it is in the middle of the night when bub is screaming but the best time to try is when your baby is calm and not hungry. Try offering it towards the end of a feed when sucking is slower or just after. A quick switch between nipple (bottle or breast) with a dummy helps.
- For babies who won’t take the dummy, gently offer it and position it properly – The key is to slowly offer it to your baby by ever so gently tickling their lips until they open their mouth. Then they will either take it themselves or allow you to position the teat toward the spot in their mouth that triggers the sucking reflex. This is between the roof of their mouth (hard palate) and the moveable part at the back of their throat (soft palate). Never forcibly hold the dummy in their mouth.
- For babies who keep pushing the dummy out, all you do is pull the dummy out – That’s right, this technique seems strange but has worked many times. When your baby tries to pop out their dummy, rather than pushing it back in all you do is gently pull the dummy away a little bit until they suck harder (think of it like when you check to see if a fish is on the line end of your line). After a while they learn to keep suck properly and keep it in their mouth.
Additional tips for breastfeed babies :
- Let someone other than mum introduce it– Your baby knows your smell and that smell is milk, so get someone who doesn’t smell like milk to offer it. That way they aren’t disappointed when milk doesn’t come out of the teat.
- Simulate your nipple temperature – Babies sometimes reject dummies because they are cold so warming the teat up in some warm water (testing it before you give it to them) and trying again.
- Find a dummy with a large shield and round teat – A round teat mimics the shape of your nipple and the large shield will touch their nose and provide the closeness and comfort they get when nuzzled into your breast for a feed.
- No matter which technique you use be patient – Like a lot of other settling techniques for some babies it can take time and persistence - Sometimes days not hours.
- If you’ve patiently tried everything try a different shaped teat – Some babies just prefer a different shape so it’s worth a test.
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