The Dummy Debate

To dummy or not to dummy….. That is the question.

Using a dummy seems to have been added onto the “mummy guilt” list. So when is a dummy ok and when is it time to get rid of it? What are the pro’s and cons?


  • Sucking can have a soothing effect for babies.
  • There is research to suggest that there is a decrease in the risk of SIDS if a baby uses a dummy.
  • Dummies can have a soothing effect for babies and often help settle them
  • If a baby is using a dummy to sooth and self settle, rather than breast feeding to sleep this can help with establishing routines


  • Toddlers can become dependant on dummies
  • If a baby or a toddler loses their dummy in the night it can be very distressing for everyone!
  • Dummy use has been linked to an increase in respiratory infections and ear infections.

What does the research say?

From a Speech Pathology perspective there isn’t any strong evidence to suggest that dummies cause speech delay. HOWEVER, it is important that the dummy is just used at certain times, e.g rest time, and is not used when they child is playing or socially interacting. There is a danger when children get “addicted” to dummies that they talk around their dummy. This can lead to reduced verbal output and they don’t have the opportunity to practice their sounds.

There is research to indicate that if a child is still sucking a dummy (or their thumb) at three years of age then they are at risk of their dentition changing and pushing teeth forward.

Principal Psychologist Daniel Wendt from Oracle Psychology states that there are a number of other ways to help your infant self-sooth besides pacifiers and he briefly identifies a few below.

  1. Try not to rush when reacting to your baby’s day to day crying, as your child may sense your own anxiety. Respond with calm body language and a soothing voice.
  2. Establish a clear and consistent routine. Try and keep to a similar schedule with regards to bedtime, feeding and bathing. This provides your baby with predictability and comfort.
  3. Try and place you little one down to sleep while they are still drowsy rather than completely asleep. This means as a parent being in tune with their sleepy body signals (e.g. heavy eyelids) and helps your infant experience going to sleep in their own bed with more awareness. If your child is not crying when you put them down to sleep it is okay to step away and let them drift off by themselves. This sends them the signal that their room is safe and you feel comfortable with them being in their home.

Dummy tips

  • Make sure that breast feeding is established before introducing a dummy
  • Only use dummies for toddlers at rest time or to self sooth
  • Be wary of the dummy addicted toddler
  • If your child is till using the dummy by the age of three there is a risk of their dentition changing
  • Never attach your child’s dummy to their clothing as this poses a choking risk
  • If you are worried about your child’s dummies use and think that it’s impacting them, chat to your speech pathologist at Early Start Speech Pathology for tips as to how to transition to a dummy free life!