Dummies can be a tricky thing. Some babies adore their dummies from the get-go, happily sucking all night long. Meanwhile, others spit them right back out at you! If you are struggling to get your lovebug to take the dummy—and you would like them to—I can help! And if you want to try offering a dummy at bedtime but are unsure when or how to do it—I can help you, too! Here is everything you need to know for dummy success.

When to Introduce a Dummy

There is evidence that dummy use has little impact on breastfeeding in healthy, full-term babies…but there is no conclusive evidence on when a dummy should be introduced. Because of that, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting to introduce the dummy until breastfeeding is well established. That means, hold off until your milk supply is sufficient and consistent and your baby has mastered an effective latch. For infants who are not fed directly at the breast, you can introduce a dummy as soon as you would like.

Why You Should Offer Baby a Dummy

Babies are born wanting to suck! After all, your little one needs to suck in order to get nutrients. Beyond that, sucking has the power to calm babies by lowering their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Research shows that sucking can even reduce crying after jabs. All of the above is part of the reason that Sucking is an essential element of the 5 S’s for soothing babies. Like all of the 5 S’s, sucking activates Baby’s innate calming reflex, which is nature’s “off switch” for crying and “on switch” for sleep. The cherry on top? The AAP recommends offering a dummy at naptime and bedtime to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). (Learn more about why babies love dummies.)

How to Introduce a Dummy to Baby

First, shop for a dummy designed for your baby’s age. (All dummies should be labeled with age ranges.) There are a variety of nipples to choose from, so you may have to try a few different kinds until you land on one that your bub loves.

Once you have selected a dummy, simply put it in your baby’s mouth at sleepytime. Often, they will happily take it. If your little one resists taking the dummy, try offering it when they are relaxed, toward the end of a feed. If that fails, I have a simple trick to get just about any baby to take a dummy.

How to Keep a Dummy in Baby’s Mouth

If your little one shuns the dummy, do not worry! Instead, try a little reverse psychology. That means, rather than pushing the dummy in your baby’s mouth every time they spit it out, pull on the dummy a bit every time your baby gives it a little suck! So, toward the end of a feed, when your baby is relaxed and their sucking has slowed—slide the dummy between your baby’s lips. (It is like a classic “bait-and-switch!”) When the dummy is snugly in your bub’s mouth, wait for your baby to suck on it…then pull it back just a smidge, like testing if a fish is on the line. I bet your baby will respond by sucking harder! Repeat this exercise a few times a day and within, say, three days, your baby will likely take the dummy easily. (This technique works best before a baby turns 6 weeks old.)

This bit of reverse psychology is based on our natural feeling that “what is in my mouth belongs to me.” Eventually, trying to remove the dummy will be like prying a toy from a 2-year-old: The harder you pull, the more they will resist!

How to Keep Dummy Sucking Safe

Sucking on a dummy is great for babies…as long as you follow some safety rules, like these:

  • Opt for silicone dummies. Buy clear silicone dummy instead of yellow rubber ones. The yellow rubber gets sticky and deteriorates after a while—and they may release tiny amounts of an unhealthy chemical residue.

  • Do not dip the dummy into harmful substances. Never dip a dummy into syrup or honey. This can cause infant botulism, a potentially fatal disease. Dipping the dummy in some breastmilk or formula, however, is A-okay.

  • Wash dummies daily. In one study, 80% of dummies had a little film of yeast or bacteria growing on them. So, wash with soap and water, not your germy mouth! (Your saliva can pass a cold or even herpes onto your baby.) When done cleaning, squeeze the water out of the nipple with clean hands. Accidentally leaving hot water trapped inside might burn your baby.

  • Do not use a dummy to delay meals. Only offer your little one a dummy when you are positive they are not hungry.

  • Never hang a dummy around Baby’s neck. And do not tie them to your baby’s crib or hand either. Strings may get tightly wrapped around their fingers, cutting off circulation or around the neck, causing choking.

  • Do not use a bottle nipple as a dummy. If Baby sucks hard, the nipple can pop out of the ring and choke them.

  • Inspect the nipples. Every once in a while, examine your baby’s dummy to make sure the rubber has not changed color or torn.

  • Tune into ear infections. If your infant suffers from frequent ear infections, your healthcare provider may recommend weaning the dummy. That is because sucking hard can disturb the pressure in the ears and lead to infections.

When to Stop Using the Dummy

There is no rush! Dummies can be a great emotional support, sleep-helper, and stress-reducer for little ones up to 1 to 3 years. Plus, dummies can be super useful in times of transition or stress, like when your kiddo is sick, starting daycare, or traveling to a new place. That said, as your bub approaches 18 months old, it is a good idea to start limiting their dummy use to nighttime sleep or other stressful situations. For help, check out my guide for weaning the dummy.


More tips on comforting your little one:

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.