Soothers…. another one of those weird topics that instigate all manner of severe mammy guilt! I feel this is because we are bombarded with conflicting information as to whether or not their use is a good or bad thing! I’d like to be able to clarify whether there is a right or wrong answer to the argument but I’m afraid that will still remain the personal choice of a parent – all I can do is explain the evidence from both sides and for what it’s worth I’m happy to give my own opinion at the end!
Please note – I will use the word ‘soothers’ throughout this article to describe a device also known as a dodi, a pacifier, a dummy, etc etc etc…..
I have no doubt that the biggest negative of soother use relates to its potential impact on the breastfeeding relationship. However I must also add that I used soothers for all three of my breastfed children from day two or three as they were all extremely ‘sucky’ and it never impacted on our relationship…but from my research it is clear that I was lucky. To reduce and hopefully remove any risks to milk supply try to leave it three to four weeks before introducing a soother as your body needs to respond to your babies demands to produce enough milk. If you use a soother instead of offering the breast your body cannot hear natures stimulus to increase supply. However if your relationship with your baby was like mine and you felt overwhelmed by their constant need to suck then certainly consider a soother – it helped me a lot – but always be conscious of your babies need to stimulate your supply and remember that their little tummies are tiny and need a fairly constant supply of milk snacks to keep them happy. Consider offering it just at the end of a feed when you are sure they are full and just looking for comfort. Remember that ‘holding a baby’s feed off’ with a soother is not a good idea and will only lead you down a difficult breastfeeding path. Its normal for a baby to want to feed 8-12 times a day when they are little. Normal…and yes exhausting!
Sometimes soothers can cause nipple confusion – so you may find your baby is not latching correctly. Many babies don’t ever suffer from this problem but if you suspect a latch issue it may be worth avoiding the soother.
Ensure you use a safe soother which has no broken or loose parts. When they get old replace them. Make sure they are kept clean as much as possible.
Soothers are often associated with dental issues – however from all of the research and guidelines I have read these issues tend to only be of concern with long term use – so for example over 4-5 years of age.
There is a study which suggests that soother use can have an impact on the emotional development of boys (interestingly not girls!) due to the impact soother use has on the ability to learn facial mimicry and the expression of emotion. The study suggests that girls use alternate methods to communicate more than boys and that the impact is related to the frequency and duration of use. The study is a little bit out there and further research is warranted but in my opinion it just highlights what is pretty obvious anyway….everything in moderation. It would be my personal view that restricting soother use to sleepy times or those of upset would reduce any impact their use may have on communication skills.
- Soother use has been found to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and so the American Academy of Pediatrics advise their use at nap or sleep time – even for breastfed babies once feeding is established.
- A soother can be used to calm a distraught or upset baby.
- A soother can help provide pain relief.
- It’s easier to stop your child sucking a soother than it is their thumb.
- From my own experience a soother can be a real life saver in the car!
Needs more research
Ear infections – you may read that soother use is associated with an increased incidence of ear infections – but from what I can find the information on this is a little flaky… the study used is not sure whether there was an increase of ear infections due to soother use or an increase of soother use due to the pain of ear infections!! I wouldn’t base your decision on this argument just yet..seriously!
Be conscious of the impact soother use may have on a breastfeeding relationship – but do feel free to use one for a well entitled break if your happy your child’s nutritional based sucking needs are being met. I would advise offering it after a feed when your trying to get your baby to sleep. When your baby wakes – offer the breast rather than trying to satisfy them with a soother in case they need to be fed…which they do…a lot 😉
Use clean soothers which are in perfect condition only. Throw out any old ones or ones which seem in anyway cracked or broken. As tempting as it is don’t dip them in syrup such a glycerine and aniseed as its bad for their gums…I did do it to help calm them during first aid on occasion.
Try not to over use your baby’s soother – all of the potential negative effects of their use such as speech, dental, developmental issues really only occur with over use. Stick to the recommendation to use it at night if your baby wants it for sleep. You also don’t need to keep sticking it back in after they fall asleep – the benefit in relation to SIDS relates to them falling to sleep.
I’ll write a further blog about how and when to wean your baby off a soother in the future…but in essence I went to awful trouble to wean my eldest off her soother when she was five months of age – I don’t know what I was thinking but I definitely thought I was doing the right thing…I have changed my tack on my subsequent children! My second daughter gave hers to the fairies after they left a note saying they might move in if there was two ‘big girl’s to play with…big girls who had no soothers… The fairies kept their word after a ceremonial offering was made and soothers were not for her after that! My youngest fella is still at 15 months completely in love and obsessed with his soother – he’s very happy – and therefore so am I! When he is old enough to consider inviting a fairy to move in then he will be old enough to offer them his soothers in return! For me the sensible approach is don’t use a soother if you don’t want to. If you do want to and your baby likes it then go for it! I would advise minimising use during awake periods and never substituting a feed for a soother but other than that, on balance I feel that something that offers so much comfort should be enjoyed…and not another thing for us mums to add to our ‘mammy guilt’ lists!
My favourite soother related stuff includes….
The fabulous and adorable Sleepytot who helps your child to find their soother at night – and he doesn’t fit out the bars of a cot when they decide to fling him and then immediately realise what a bad idea that actually was! You can read my full review by clicking here! They are available to purchase here!
To ensure you always have a clean soother to hand it’s a great idea to have one of these stuck on a strap in your changing bag! Click here to read more or purchase!
My favourite soother is probably the NUK Genius ones as they are a really good design to protect dental development – they are available here!
As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch through the WonderBaba facebook page by private message – http://www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare or phone me at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262!