A baby’s first contact with the world around him is felt through his mouth, through which he will begin to taste and get to know the world. The mouth becomes the centre of the first and most important experiences of the newborn baby. It is through it that the baby makes contact with its mother, explores this new world, and satisfies its hunger.
The need for sucking
For the infant, sucking is important because it helps satisfy psychological and nutritional needs. Babies not only get nutritional satisfaction during feeding, but also experience the progressive stimulation of the lips, tongue, and oral mucosa and learn to associate this stimulus with other pleasant sensations: the mother’s caress, warmth, and voice. The experience of feeding is a mother-child relationship. It is the act of putting into practice a loving relationship between the two living beings. Such a bond is very powerful in the beginning.
The feeling of hunger and the need to suck arise at the same time and are part of the baby’s developmental and feeding process. Ideally, therefore, sucking and hunger should be satisfied at the same time, but this is not always the case. There are babies who are satisfied only with feedings and there are others who need more sucking time. This also happens when the nipple of the bottle has an enlarged hole, which makes the milk flow more. The baby will feel satisfied quickly, full. This does not indicate that the need for sucking has been satisfied and may cause crying or restlessness soon afterwards.
How to make good use of the dummy?
It is at this moment that the Dummies show their importance because it is used to satisfy the baby’s sucking need. However, most of the times, sucking the Dummies can become an addiction extremely prejudicial to chewing, breathing, speech, and position of the teeth of the child.
Dummies can be important, yes, as long as the mother knows the right moment to offer them.
Practically all parents have already heard or know the harm caused by the excessive use of the Dummies, but even so, they prefer to focus more on the benefits that its use brings to their own lives.
Parents, in general, turn the Dummies into an addiction.
They use it to silence the child and keep it quiet, without worrying about knowing its adequate use, having in mind the health of their children. Noticing what is happening to the baby seems to be a very difficult task since he does not speak or point. But the mother, when establishing a healthy relationship with her child, is able to know what she needs without needing much theory, guidance, or advice. Most of the time, the baby wants to communicate hunger, heat, cold, discomfort, lack of company, and snuggling. None of these problems is solved with a soother and, therefore, its use must be controlled.
Relieving the baby’s anxiety with Dummies makes him associate one thing with another. Every time he feels anxious he will want the dummy, for he is afraid of losing it. Thus, parents end up inducing the baby to centralize in the mouth the search for all sensations, delaying the exploration of different situations and the development of other senses.
Controlling the sucking habit
A baby used to the Dummies may take longer to explore other capacities around him/her, developing slower learning. The Dummies sucking habit is very harmful when it remains after the end of the second year of life, making it essential to discipline its use.
In this phase, the child does not sleep most of the day and starts to explore a new world around him/her, composed of toys and varied objects. This exploration provides the exercise of speech and, in this context, babbling is very important for exercising the oral musculature. The use of the Dummies prevents the oral stimulus of speech; therefore, one shall not offer the Dummies at any sign of discomfort, or to calm crying, because this way will lead to the habit.
Dummies offered all the time or hanging from the child’s clothes shall be avoided.
Their use is only indicated to satisfy the basic need of sucking, in general, more accentuated during the first three months of life. When offering the dummy to the child the mother shall initially put it in contact with the lips, stimulating sucking. The dummy shall be held and pulled back a little, as if the mother wanted to take it out of the mouth, thus stimulating the sucking habit.
It is convenient to do this approximately ten times and to remove the Dummies from the mouth. In this way, the work of the oral musculature will be stimulated providing satisfaction and tiredness. At this moment, it is possible that the child leaves the dummy and starts to sleep. Depending on each child’s needs, it is necessary to make the movements more often until this result is reached.
Dummy with orthodontic nipple
Within odontology and phonoaudiology, the preventive conduct for the newborn baby as well as during the breastfeeding phase indicates the use of an orthodontic dummy that is similar in shape to the maternal breast, thus avoiding oral problems.
We recommend the use of dummies without rings, so as not to hang them up, and preferably made of silicone because they are easy to clean. It is important that parents pay attention to the size of the dummy, which shall be adequate for the age of the child in order to obtain the correct orthodontic effect.
Removal of the Dummies habit
Removal of the Dummies is indicated up to two years of age. However, some children need a transition element that provides, in the same way, warmth, affection, security, and company. This transitional element can be represented by a plush toy or another favourite toy.
The presence of the mother on this occasion, caressing or telling a story, helps to divert the focus and replace the Dummies with other forms of tenderness, security, and comfort. It is also worth negotiating the exchange of the Dummies on special dates, with the attractiveness of gaining a present if she gives what she likes so much to another person. These people can be Father Christmas, Easter Bunny, Little Fairies, etc.
When offering the exchange, parents must be attentive to see if the child already feels prepared and safe. Otherwise, there may be a feeling of frustration and impotence on the part of the child and the mother. The child should continue to be motivated until he/she feels safe enough to change. In conditioning, the child always tries to prevail on “gain” and not on “loss”.
How can a baby abandon the Dummies?
He may abandon the habit little by little. This can happen in different ways, as long as the habit is not strongly installed, or when the baby feels interested in new discoveries of the world which surrounds him/her and also when he/she is more mature. Parents shall be attentive to the signs the child shows, for instance, biting or spoiling the Dummies, feeling a little sly, or being too much attached to them. The real request would be for more affection, attention, and a little more patience on the part of parents, to present new attractions to the child.
When the habit is firmly installed, like an addiction, it is recommended to remove the Dummies in a sensitive, soft, and gradual way. One shall not use radical methods, such as peppering, hiding, or throwing it away. Neither do not use methods that affect the child’s self-esteem. Aggressive attitudes of this sort could make the child more insecure, casting doubt on the parents’ love and causing them other problems of a psychological nature.
Which is the best moment to take the Dummies out?
It is advisable to remove the dummy between one and one and a half years of age, avoiding as much as possible exceeding two years of age, in order to avoid problems in the development of the arches. Not always the moment in which the child is living is the most propitious. Firstly, it is necessary to observe what is happening in the child’s life. It should be a time when the parents are getting along well, the child is not ill, and there is no new baby brother or sister at home or on the way. These are situations that generate tension and the Dummies can represent support.
If the moment is favourable, it will be possible to negotiate the time and daily frequency of use of the Dummies, not forgetting always to take them out right after falling asleep. It is important that the mother be careful not to hurt or humiliate the child and, whenever she can understand, explain the reason for the effort to remove the habit. Parents will serve as support at this moment, although they must recognize the limitations of the child who, most of the time, shows a willingness to help them in this situation.
The Dummies sucking habit may cause dentofacial deformities. It is desirable, therefore, that the interruption of the habit be done as soon as possible. One cannot forget, however, the respect for the child, always remembering that we are dealing with a child with a habit and not simply with a habit. We must fully understand that by teaching correct habits to our children, we will be educating them and avoiding the installation of harmful habits.