The great dummy debate

Have you ever encountered a so called 'lactation nazi'? The kind that scare you into thinking, any use of dummies or artificial teats will diabolically affect breast feeding? That it will come to an untimely end as you milk supply dwindles and the baby gets nipple confusion?

Sadly I think I may have been one of these. Dummies were bad, well this was 6 years and 3 children ago. I did half-heartedly try to get my first child to take a dummy out of sheer desperation, but only after the required 6 weeks as I was terrified of nipple confusion. She flatly refused and while it would have made life easier, there was a small part of me that was pleased. I didn't really want a toddler with a dummy. In those early days of parenting I still had all these ideals and illusions of the best way to do things and 'those' people with toddlers walking around were doing it wrong in my mind.

Three kids and a lot less ideals later I realized that we all do what we need to do to survive as parents, we do the best we can in the way we know how. And while most might not have set out to have a toddler with a dummy, it happens and really is not the end of the world. After all no one goes to university with a dummy. Happy baby = happy mommy, so I apologize for my mental judgement of all dummy moms back then.

But the question remains, is the advice to avoid all dummy usage especially in the early weeks, really valid? The World Health Organisation's 10 steps to successful breastfeeding recommends avoiding all artificial teats for breastfeeding infants saying that offering the dummy instead of the breast to calm your baby may lead to breastfeeding less frequently and may therefore reduce milk production and shorten the duration of breastfeeding but there was no research to confirm or disprove this.

Dummies not so bad after all

There is now a Cocharne review of research to see if dummies really affects breastfeeding in healthy, full term babies. They found 2 studies involving 1302 babies to review and found that using a dummy had no effect on exclusive breastfeeding of babies at 3 and 4 months and also no effect on the number of babies partially breastfed at 3 and 4 months, irrespective of if the dummies were introduced at birth or later.

Their conclusion was that dummies in healthy, full term babies either started from birth or after breastfeeding was established, did not affect how many moms breastfeed their babies or for how long. They did say that there was still evidence lacking as to the affect on short term breastfeeding difficulties, but even if there were such difficulties they did not affect breastfeeding in the long term like we have been lead to believe.

I had some early breastfeeding problems with my 3rd baby and it was not even related to a dummy so often issues with latch might have been there anyway, some babies just find it harder to learn what to do. The study also did not look at the long term effects of dummy usage on babies health.

So really it all boils down to a personal choice now and whether you are lucky enough to have a baby that will take a dummy. This time I did not mind and I still have a baby that does not like a dummy.

Did you use a dummy and how do you feel about babies and dummies?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24