The use of dummies, also called pacifiers or comforters, is a common practice in many countries.
For many families, the most important advantage of the use of dummies is their role in helping babies settle down to sleep or to soothe them. Some studies show that dummies can help establish good sucking patterns in very young babies, especially those born prematurely.
Several research projects have begun looking at a correlation between dummy sucking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and whether using a dummy lowers the risk of SIDS. This area of investigation is very new and SIDS support organisations do not recommend the use of dummies as a preventative measure.
There are a few suggested disadvantages:
- Stopping breast-feeding early – however research in this area is undecided;
- Increased risk of middle ear infections (otitis media/glue ear);
- Increased risk of dental problems and crooked teeth if used beyond age three.
Development of speech
There is some evidence to suggest that frequent dummy use in the daytime may affect young children’s speech sound development. Common sense would suggest that having something in their mouths will make babies and toddlers less likely to babble and experiment with sounds, both of which are important for the development of speech. However, current evidence suggests that any speech sound errors associated with dummy use do clear up as children get older.
Advice for Parents & Carers
There is a lot of confusing advice available about the use of dummies and it is important to be aware of the range of arguments.
Dummies can be useful in settling young babies and encouraging strong sucking patterns, but their specific usefulness declines after a developmental age of about six months. It may also be advisable to restrict dummy use to night time where possible. However, there is no strong evidence that dummy use will impact the development of speech skills in young children. There is useful advice and tips on reducing dummy use here.
- Baker, E., Masso, S., McLeod, S. and Wren, Y., 2018, Pacifiers, thumb sucking, breastfeeding, and bottle use: oral sucking habits of children with and without phonological impairment. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 70(3–4), 165–173.
- Jaafar, S. H., Jahanfar, S., Angolkar, M. and Ho, J. J., 2011, Pacifier use versus no pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 3, CD007202.
- O’Connor, N. R., Tanabe, K. O., Siadaty, M. S. and Hauck, F. R., 2009, Pacifiers and breastfeeding. A systematic review. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 163, 378–382.
- Poyak, J. (2006). Effects of pacifiers on early oral development. International Journal of Orthodontics (Milwaukee, Wis.). Winter 2006; 17(4): 13-6.
- Rovers, M. M., Numans, M. E., Langenbach, E., Grobbee, D. E., Verheij, T. J. and Schilder, A. G., 2008, Is pacifier use a risk factor for acute otitis media? A dynamic cohort study. Family Practice: An International Journal, 25, 233–236.
- Strutt, C., Khattab, G., & Willoughby, J. (2021). Does the duration and frequency of dummy (pacifier) use affect the development of speech? International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 56 (3): 512-527.
- Warren, J. J., Bishara, S. E., Steinbock, K. L., Yonezu, T., & Nowak, A. J. (2001). Effects of oral habits' duration on dental characteristics in the primary dentition. Journal of the American Dental Association, 132(12): 1685-93.