Dummies (Pacifiers/Soothers) and why not to use them!!!!
Dummies (Pacifiers/Soothers) and why not to use them!!!!
As the title of this article has probably given away Maria Montessori’s views on the use of dummies is that they are unnecessary as they inhibit the child’s means of communication. Montessori’s opinion (NB that has also been supported in studies on infant communication) is that when a baby cries there is always a reason even if it isn’t initially evident to us; therefore the use of a dummy hinders their only means of communication. Maria Montessori strongly felt that nothing should take the place of human contact; especially in the first year of a baby’s life where bonding with your child and the “messages” communicated to them are of the utmost importance.
The reason that I have said “messages” communicated is because what you do will communicate far more to your child than what you say. It is well know that body language and voice tone are the principle factors that a person will subconsciously use to determine exactly what is being communicated to them above the words being actually said. To what extent people go with body language and voice tone is still being debated. I can tell you from my experience as a child (and yes I remember loud and clear) that I definitely, without question, paid attention to how things were being said, rather than what was said. As early as about six/ seven years of age I actually realised I did this and I remember thinking; “how do they expect me to believe them when it doesn’t sound like they mean it?” What I was actually picking up on was the subconscious message being communicated.
I wasn’t actually given a dummy and thank-goodness for that because not having one forced me to deal with the emotions I was feeling (negative and positive) and this is so important in preparation for adulthood. It taught me so much and I am now able to share the wisdom that has been building steadily up inside of me from early childhood.
So what does giving your child a dummy communicate to them? Judi Orion and Paul Pillai in an article about the Montessori perspective that they simply entitle; “On The Use of Dummies” have put forward their interpretation. They believe that a likely message the use of a dummy communicates is; “People don’t like it when I cry”. I am going to go one step further be a bit more brutally honest and say that in effect the message is more like; “Shut up”. I’m sorry to be so harsh because I know a lot of people use them; this is why I really want to encourage people to think twice.
If you think about it; dummies are principally used to stop children from crying and this is their only means of communication in the first six to seven months of life. During this period of a child’s life it is critical to give them positive messages about themselves and about life. Messages that show them they are loved, accepted wholey and valued and that the “World” around them is great place to be. Putting a dummy in their mouth demonstration that you “don’t want to hear what they have to say” and is tantamount to only accepting them when they’re happy.
You wouldn’t give an adult a dummy, would you? – Because it would look silly and be extremely odd and rude. The fundamental aim of bringing up children is to raise a healthy adult (in mind body and soul); so why should it be acceptable to give a dummy to a child? In the aforementioned article Judi Orion and Paul Pillai put forward how the messages given to a child in the first six weeks of life are especially important and will be carried throughout the child’s life. They state that when you communicate with the child and when there is no dummy involved it give the strong message to the child that what they say is “worthwhile”. This is extremely important for the development of their self-image. A good self-image leads to positive self-esteem; it’s worth remembering that.
Very early on when it isn’t always easy to know what your child is communicating when they cry it is far better to give of yourself to sooth and calm them. Remind yourself continuously as it will help motivate you that these months of tiredness that you’re feeling are definitely worth a lifetime of content happiness for your child. The effort that you make, even though you may not feel it at the time, communicates that they are worth it. There is no stronger message of love that you can give than to put their needs above your own. 🙂
I read an article in a local family magazine that put forward that when a child between the ages of 0-8 months persistently cries it is always “digestive related”. Both Colic and Reflux are common conditions in babies of this age. They are not to be mistaken as they have different symptoms. Colic is where an infant gets built up trapped wind throughout the day and can cry inconsolably for up to three hours usually during late afternoon, early evening. Reflux, often know as Acid Reflux is where a child will posit, or even vomit after feeding. It’s caused by an under-developed valve that usually stops food traveling back up the oesophagus. In severe cases it is known as Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease, GORD. There is also a related condition to this known as Silent Reflux, where after a feed the infant’s stomach “splashes” the feed part way up the oesophagus, though the child isn’t sick; as you can imagine this is more difficult to diagnose, yet still very real and distressing for infants.
With both these conditions your child will cry a lot because they are in discomfort and pain. For this very reason I strongly advise that it is far better to do something about the cause of the situation to reduce the pain/ discomfort they are feeling rather than just stick a dummy in their mouth.
With both conditions one solution that I know helps is keeping the child upright for a minimum of half an hour after feeding. One tip here is to change them before feeding so that you are not then lying them down afterwards to change them. This is particularly important with infants who have Acid Reflux as lying them down will increase the probability of them being sick – keep gravity on your side!! 🙂 Also in both cases giving shorter, more frequent feeds is meant to be helpful, and burping them regularly – half way through a feed as well as at the end. So be sure to have a muslin available.
Also taking a Colicky baby into a darkened room and rubbing their stomach gently whilst singing to them can definitely help to sooth them; whereas a child with Acid Reflux will only stop crying when the pain of the stomach acid on their oesophagus has stopped. With both Colic and Reflux they do usually outgrow it by 9 months to a year of age.
I wonder that another solution for breast-feeding mothers could be to eat more “Alkaline-Forming” foods. I learnt about this just from my own interest in sensible healthy eating. There is such a thing known as “The Alkaline Diet”. If you find that you are really struggling with an infant who has Acid Reflux, it is definitely worth Googling “Alkaline Forming Foods” and looking into it. – If your diet is less acid forming, theirs will be too. One definite tip I can give you is lemon (or lime) water. This is Alkaline Forming – NB It’s Alkaline forming foods – their PH after digestion, not the PH of the foods themselves. The way you prepare “lemon water” is get a pint glass, fill it up will cool drinking water half way, squeeze in either a lemon, or lime, or a bit of both – whatever works for you – then fill it with boiling water to the top. If you have it about half an hour before you feed your baby I would imagine it would help – to what degree I’m unsure. It’s always sensible to stay hydrated yourself when breastfeeding so why not try an Alkaline Forming drink.
It’s also advisable to keep in good communication with the Health Visitor about how you and your child are coping because s/he will be able to advise and support you.
My niece had Acid Reflux as a baby and it is worth mentioning here that as a result of my advice my sister didn’t use a dummy with my niece and although she definitely felt tired and occasionally frustrated; without question I know she has no regrets of that decision because my niece is one of the most happiest, grounded, responsible and fun children I know.
It’s always wise to remind ourselves that crying is a baby’s only means of communication and as I have put forward with the examples of Colic and Acid Reflux – the most likely cause of persistent crying in a young child – it is far better to do something about the cause than the most obvious symptom, the crying. Society in general should be encouraged to have a better understanding of early child-development so there is more tolerance and understanding for new parents who may well be struggling with periods of unsoothable crying. I also wish celebrities would stop giving their children dummies – it’s poor role-modelling. Plus, adult cartoons such as The Simpsons, that always show the character Maggie, with a dummy, are not helpful either.
To demonstrate to effects of using dummies regularly and persistently until the child is almost past “toddlerhood” (2-3 years old) I can tell you a couple of very interesting stories. This is definitely not advisable and these stories illustrate why. I worked with a lady in a purpose-built Montessori setting and her children were pupils there (it went from six weeks to five years). She mainly used a dummy with her eldest, a girl. When she happened to be speaking about it once I was very surprised at her attitude towards it considering with a third child on the way, how relaxed she’d become. She self-admitted to using a dummy and “shoving it in her mouth” at the merest of crying. Her daughter, who stopped the dummy at aged 2.5 years, had a speech impediment. She expressed concern about this as she didn’t want her teased at school. She couldn’t understand where it came from. I could, the persistent use of the dummy. How can a child learn to speak properly with a dummy in her mouth? She also happened to mention how her daughter went through a “nervous phase”. Well that would be due to her negative, “highly strung” attitude toward the crying.
The second story is even more interesting and takes things one step further. I was at an interview to work with two children in a governess role. The eldest child was a six year old boy and the youngest child a three year old girl. The present Governess revealed to me that the parents used dummies all the time and would allow them to walk around with dummies all the time. The boy was very late giving up his dummy and the girls still had one. Interestingly I also learnt that the boy struggled with spelling at school as he found it difficult to sound out the words. It suddenly occurred to me that as he had always had a dummy in his mouth he wouldn’t have been able to properly experiment with and practised sounds during baby/ toddlerhood. Can you remember Marie, the half-French, half-German girl I worked whom I mentioned in my article about using proper vocabulary with a child? Well she never had a dummy, she was spoken too in three different languages and on thing I regularly noticed was how quickly she picked up on and “practised” different sounds. Well if the six year old boy never had that opportunity for a persistently long length of time then it’s no wonder he struggled to sound out words. It’s also very interesting to note her that my niece, who as I mentioned on my advice never had a dummy, has literally just won an award for being the best at phonics in her class.
I must mention here that as of yet I have never seen any research connecting the persistent use of a dummy to later struggle with phonics; however I would add – would you take the chance? – Because after what I’ve observed there is no way I would want to put my child at such a disadvantage.
With calm/ confident parenting most children will definitely not need a dummy. You have the child’s future in your hands so I really implore that you do what’s best for them, even if for a few month it is more difficult. I ask parents to think about what feelings/“issues” are not being supported when a dummy is used instead to quite the child and about what this communicates to the child?? So please put that little bit of extra initial effort in at the beginning and see how much easier it makes things for you! As I have demonstrated the use of dummies not only evades the real “issue”, it also gives the child a more negative message that can lead to a poor self-image and self-image is directly related to development of self-esteem. Using dummies is also educationally prohibiting, especially when used persistently. So please think twice and think about the child first. There is a personal development saying; “Whatever you resist will persist and grow stronger”. I would really encourage you to think about what this means in relation to using dummies? – Do you first want any of the reasons your child is actually crying to “grow” into further “problems”. Plus, do you also want any of the “effects” of using a dummy regularly – poor self-image/esteem, difficulties with speech/ phonics – to become expanded?
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Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com