By Katie Hilton – MAM Expert Midwife & Health Visitor
Katie Hilton is a dual qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor and the expert adviser for MAM UK. She is also a mu’ma herself to one cheeky little man.
The Soother Dilemma
As with most things related to newborns, using a soother can come with pluses and minuses. If your newborn is taking one, it’s probably their favourite go-to accessory. Ahh, enjoy that silence. But then worry pops back into your head because you wonder if this carefree sucking might be habit-forming or interfering with feedings. Your baby loves their soother, but is it healthy?
Well go ahead and pop that soother back into baby’s mouth. Not only is it super cute to see the baby sucking away, but a soother is also good for them and you in more ways than one.
Soothers have endless nicknames including pacifiers, dummies and binkies. But whatever you call them, you’re probably aware that soothers can calm and soothe your baby. Sucking is a normal reflex in newborn babies. In fact, it begins even before birth. It helps your baby practice feeding from the breast or a bottle and has long been known to be beneficial to babies.
There’s no right or wrong answer about how soon you should give your newborn a soother. If you’re breastfeeding the advice was always to wait until you and your baby have a feeding routine established at around 6-8 weeks, this was because it was thought that soothers potentially interfered with the sucking reflex when establishing breastfeeding. However, there are now soothers available which enable you to both establish breastfeeding and offer your baby a soother, one of these is the MAM Perfect Start Soother. This soother is perfect for the first few months after birth, being smaller in size, so ideal for little mouths and featuring SkinSoft silicone which means less interference with breastfeeding and easy acceptance by your baby. It’s also clinically proven to support healthy tooth and jaw development and designed in conjunction with orthodontists and paediatric dentists.
Even if your little one isn’t crying, sucking a soother may help them fall asleep and stay asleep longer, which means more sleep for you, too. Soothers are also linked to lowering the risk of sleep-related death in babies. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year. Several research studies have found that giving your baby a soother while they sleep may be associated with a reduced risk of SIDS, possibly by more than half.
The Lullaby Trust, the charitable trust aimed at reduced sudden infant death advises that soothers help even if they fall out after your baby nods off. So go ahead, pop the soother in your newborn’s mouth and rest a little easier.
Reducing the Risk of SIDS
Soothers may help protect your baby from SIDS and suffocation during sleep for several reasons. They might make it harder for your baby to roll over onto their stomach. Tummy time is great under your watchful eye, but sleeping on the stomach is the riskiest position for SIDS.
A soother also blocks your baby’s face from accidentally getting too close to the mattress or blanket. That being said, your baby’s crib should be as empty as possible with no pillows, blankets, or stuffed toys inside it. Other researchers think that sucking on a soother might help babies develop better nerve reflexes and breathing muscles.
Give your baby their favourite soother as you lay them down (on their back) for sleep or a nap. If the soother falls out mid-sleep, it’s perfectly OK. If they wake up or cry, try popping the soother back in.