Category Archives: Baby Products

Soft Structured Carrier Babywearing Comparison and Reviews

We love babywearing at BabyCalm.

We understand though that for many parents wrap slings can be daunting, we also understand that many (especially dads!) are keen on the idea of a more structured buckled carrier – one that they can simply “click and go” and one that looks a little more mainstream and a little more like the baby carriers sold in most high street shops. Enter the ‘Soft structured Carrier’ – a baby carrier that carries baby in an ergonomically/physiologically correct position and one that is comfortable for the wearer. A carrier that can be used on the front and back (and often hip) and can often be used well into the toddler and even preschool years.

There is one problem though – the huge choice – what one should you buy? We would always recommend trying one of first, but if that isn’t possible for whatever reason there are a few points to bear in mind:

  1. Who will be using the carrier? Are they petite? plus size? very tall? Will the waistband fit? Do the straps cross to provide a better fit?
  2. How long do you want the carrier to last? From birth? Well into toddlerhood? Consider the weight capacity and height and width of the carrier and whether you need to purchase a seperate invoice to use the carrier from birth?
  3. Do you want to back carry or hip carry as well as carry baby on your front?
  4. Does the carrier have a sleep hood? To support your baby’s head if he or she falls asleep in the carrier?
  5. Will you be using the carrier in very hot weather? Does it need to fold up small to pop in your bag?
  6. Finally – what sort of budget do you have?

We have created the table below as a good starting point (by no means does this cover all SSCs on the market) – read on for detailed reviews of some of the most popular carriers:

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Boba 3G  – £89.99 from Slumber Roo

Review by Gwen – her son is 3yrs old in this picture.

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I bought the Boba 3G as I wanted a semi-structured carrier that I would be able to do a back carry in when I was on my own.  After trying out a few I fell in love with the Boba 3G.  I couldn’t believe just how it easy it is get my toddler on my back; it is just like putting a ruck sack on.

The wide padded straps are extremely comfortable, other carriers started to pull on my shoulders after a while but the 3G stayed comfortable.  The wide hip belt sits comfortably on both me and my husband and both the 15 month old and the 3 year old love it.  The straps are very easily adjusted for each parent and child combination. There are a few extras that make it even better, the rain/sleep hood is very useful and folds into a pocket when not in use. There is a pocket for money and keys and even better there is a loop to secure a light bag in place with a popper rather than having it fall off your shoulders.

All in all I would highly recommend it.

 

 

Connecta Solarweave – £56.99 from Connecta

Review by Claire – her daughter is 16mths old in this picture.

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For me a Solarweave Connecta is an indispensable addition to my luggage for any sort of holiday and wonderful at home too!

Not only is the fabric cool and highly breathable, while being extremely soft and supportive, but it also offers sun protection as the fabric blocks out most of the harmful UVA and UVB rays. All factors that make it the perfect carrier for any warmer weather babywearing.
It also dries extremely quickly and folds up tiny to shove in your bag, not only fantastic for the beach or pool but also for active, rainy-day activities – I’ve often scooped up a damp toddler who’s been puddle jumping onto my back in ours!
They’re comfortable and extremely easy to use, making them a great beginners choice, and with very little adjustment the standard size can fit from newborn to around two years or more.
All in all a Solarweave Connecta is very versatile choice with lots to offer – but in my opinion a holiday must-have whether it’s sun or snow!
Ergobaby  – around £95

Review by Alexandra – her son is 20 mths old in this picture

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The ergobaby carrier can be found in almost any childcare shop. You can carry your baby on your front and on your back (and on your hip according to the instructions but clearly I would not recommend it as it is quite uncomfortable!) up to 18kg.

It is made in 100% cotton in lovely colours or designs. There is an extendable waist belt in option so any parents can use it (It can fit sizes 4 to 26.).  The body of the Ergobaby is not adjustable and quite small so it will be quickly overgrown by your LO. However, its dimensions are well suited from 6 month old to about 18mths old.

I didn’t like the pocket on the panel as it is on your baby’s back…. but I must admit it is quite spacious and could be useful.

The Ergobaby seems to be the least flexible SSC compared to the Boba and Manduca: you have to buy a newborn insert, the body of the carrier is not adjustable and the simplistic settings do not allow optimum adjustment. I know many parents who had invested in the newborn insert and found it inconvenient and difficult to install correctly. On the other hand it is perhaps the simplest SSC: no accessory to the basic version, no zips (except for the two pockets/pouches on the panel), no safety button on the buckle belt (which makes it easier to un-clip with one hand), a single point of control for the belt and suspenders. The adjustments are thus simplified but less accurate. A strong point in the settings is that the straps can be unbuckled, allowing a hip carry or to cross the straps in the back.

It was our 1st SSC and I found the Ergo rather limited with our 20mth old boy. A large part of the  belt is not padded and “dug” into my, rather not flat, stomach (when use for a back carry) and I didn’t really appreciated the shape of the belt on my lower back. I also found difficult to use it higher on my back. My husband who is quite thin didn’t find it uncomfortable though. I have since tried out the Manduca with my son and found it more comfortable and more flexible. The Ergobaby still is compact, lightweight and the fabric is nice.

 

 

Manduca  – from £99.99 from Cheeky Rascals

Review by Kate – her son is 7mths old in this picture

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I initially wanted to upgrade from wraps to half or full buckles mainly for ease of use for my husband.  One of the first full buckles I tried on was a Manduca and immediately I liked the structure to it and how versatile the padded buckle straps were, being able to wear them in a ruck sack style, crossways and use the sling for front, back and hip carrying.  What also immediately appealed to me was the fact that it has a zip feature to extend the body length and so would be suitable for toddlers and small children – a sling you would definitely get extended use from. It really is so comfortable and easy to use.

The Manduca is structured without being too hard and inflexible, it has a lovely deep seat for larger babies and toddlers whilst also having an insert for newborns – (handy for the next one!).  One of my favourite features is the deep, padded waistband as this takes some of the weight of the baby off your back and shoulders onto your hips.  I myself have a little extra padding in the waist department and found tie wraps have a tendency to dig in and slip after a long wearing session.  Not so with the Manduca.  It’s incredibly comfortable and the push and click locking buckle at the waist gives that extra peace of mind that its not going to pull or pop open if strained.  I also really like the thick padding on the shoulders which feel much more comfortable than some of the other lesser padded slings.

I prefer the cross over front carry at the moment as my baby is only 7 months old and I like to keep him “close enough to kiss”.  However, I can see the back carry becoming a favourite once he’s a toddler and we can play “piggy back” comfortably.
My husband is very happy with the Manduca as not only is it stylish and modern (and doesn’t make him look like a hippy!) but it feels secure, is easy to adjust and he loves the “click and go”aspect which is perfect when you’re rushing about and the weather is not so great – the last thing you need is trailing straps of fabric dangling in puddles while you’re trying to tie it in a downpour!

I can’t recommend the Manduca highly enough especially those who are new to Babywearing and perhaps a bit intimated by the huge varieties of fabrics and ways of tying fabric wraps. It’s been an interesting and educational journey for us so far and I’m really glad we’ve found a sling that suits all our requirements –  I’m especially  looking forward to snuggly winter walks in the snow.

 

 

Tula Toddler Carrier £103.99 Tula

Review by Emma – her son is 4yrs in this picture

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I was so excited to get a Tula Toddler last year –  which in my opinion is more preschool sized than toddler sized – because I was not ready to give up carrying my 3 and a half year old yet. Also he was born with bilateral talipes which meant his legs often got tired especially walking on uneven ground and up and down hills.

As we go to at least 2 festivals over the summer a carrier is an essential part of our kit, the Tula Toddler is great because both myself and my husband can use it. (I also use wraps but he is purely a buckles man) I am 5’1″ and a size 18/20, he is 6’1″ and of stocky build so finding a carrier that suited us both had proven tricky in the past.
The Tula Toddler is very adjustable giving both of us a comfortable fit. We used it quite a lot this summer – even though Alfie turned 4 in February and is above average height and weighs 19kg – carnivals and festivals are a regular occurrence on the Isle of Wight where we live. We use the optional leg extenders with it now Alfie is so big and it has meant that this carrier has lasted us a long time.
I recommend this carrier for larger toddlers and into preschool years.

How to Cope When Your Baby Has Separation Anxiety (AKA The Clingy Baby!)

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I remember it well. Just as you come out of the new parent fog, your baby sleeps a little more at night, you begin to think that ‘at last I might have this parenting thing sussed’, perhaps you’re about to go back to work, or consider leaving your baby for your first post baby night away…….and then it happens, all of a sudden your baby regresses back to newborn behaviour, your smiling, ‘happy to go to anybody’ little bundle is only happy in your arms. You can no longer even have a wee alone, the second you leave the room you hear your little one wail, if they’re mobile they crawl into the bathroom after you, clinging at your legs desperate for you to pick them up.

cryingWhat went wrong?

What did you do to create such a clingy baby?

Why is your little one so lacking in confidence that they need to be glued to you 24/7?

Why do they cry so much unless they are close to you?

It’s your fault……you must have done something wrong surely?

Only you didn’t, in fact you did everything right! Separation anxiety (AKA the baby who screams unless superglued to you) is a GOOD sign, yes I did say that, no I’m not insane – it’s a sign you’ve done a great job! In fact it’s one of the best signs you can see to show that you have raised a psychologically healthy, completely normal infant.

So why is it a good thing? To put it briefly when your baby is born they have no idea that they are a separate entity to you, as far as your baby is concerned you and he are one , in fact you may as well be your baby’s arm or leg, he sees you as such an integral part of your being. It takes quite a while for your little one to work out that you aren’t joined at the hip, that he is a separate being to you. This knowledge happens at around 6 to 18 months, peaking at around the 9 to 10 month stage.  It shows your baby is clever, intelligent and totally, totally normal and it shows you have done a great job as a mother, you see it is an indication that your little one has formed a secure attachment to you.

Last century several prominent psychologists spent a long term researching attachment theory, I’m going to be a bit lazy here and fill you in via YouTube

THIS is also a wonderful (in depth) summary of the origins of ‘Attachment Theory’ – in short the significantly important work of these researchers led us to the understanding we have today – that the beginnings of true independence and confidence in children stem from a secure attachment to the mother (or substitute mother figure) in infancy.

One of the best measures of ‘secure attachment’ is a very young child who is comfortable (to explore the world) in the presence of her mother and very upset when her mother leaves – the only problem is in our detachment parenting culture this is not seen as normal, it is seen as undesirable and ‘clingy’ behaviour, in many cases it is seen as a failing – a failing for the parents to ‘detach’ and grow a confident child. This couldn’t be further from the truth, just as the incorrect assumption made by society that “in order to create a confident independent child we must push them out into the world so they can learn we are not always there” is grossly incorrect too. True independence is not learnt through rewards, punishments and force, true independence stems from a loving, secure relationship with caregivers at a young age.

So then, back to your clingy 9 month old. Rather than being a cause for concern that you’ve done something wrong and will have a shy, clingy child living with you until their 30s, actually what his ‘clingy’ behaviour could be interpreted as is a way of him congratulating you “you did good mum!”. All of that considered I appreciate it would be nice to have a wee by yourself once in a while, so here’s a few ideas to help you to cope during the peak separation anxiety period whilst fostering the all important attachment your little one has created and allowing detachment at his or her pace.

hugsad1. Empathy – Understand what your baby is going through, understand that this is a normal phase of development, albeit a scary one, for them to pass through, they are not trying to manipulate you or “wind you around their finger”, if you parent with empathy during separation anxiety not only will your child be more empathic and confident themselves when they are grown, ultimately parenting will be easier and more rewarding for you too.

2. Understanding – Not just from you, but from those close to you. Despite research into attachment theory being prevalent in the 50s and 60s (the era our parents were most often born) the results of this research didn’t really filter down into mainstream parenting, thus our parents probably parented in an entirely different way that involved us “needing to learn to be independent”. It’s hard parenting in a way different to your own parents, particularly when they (and health visitors of a similar age) offer us advice along the likes of “Just leave him to cry a little bit, it won’t kill him, he has to learn he can’t have everything his own way all of the time.”

3. Consider the timing for your return to work – Many mothers book their return to work at around 7 to 10 months, thinking that their babies won’t be tiny any more, will probably be weaned onto solids and thus not so needy of the mother, in fact this is probably one of the worst times a mum can return to work, but it is so common! Consider the possibility of pushing back your return to work by a month or two if possible.

4. If you do have to return to work, consider the impact of attachment on your child, it has long been suggested that one on one care in a home setting from a nanny or childminder is psychologically more healthy  for a baby, it allows the child and caregiver to foster a good bond and to help the baby to cope with separation anxiety in a way that will lead them to be more confident as a child.  Attachment Childcare UK is a wonderful organisation that offers a free listing of childcare professionals who subscribe to the principles of attachment theory.

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Consider postponing a move to the nursery or out of the parental bed. We all know 6 months is the recommended minimum to keep our babies in our bedroom in order to reduce SIDS risks, keeping your baby in with you for a little longer can also help them to cope with separation anxiety too.

6. Build secure attachments with other people – Pretty much covered in point 4 above, but the secure attachment doesn’t just have to be with mum, it can be with dad, granny, grandad, babysitter, nanny or childminder! You just need to build the secure attachment before separation anxiety exists

7. Help your child to feel as ‘close’ to you as possible, some parents give their child an item of their clothing to hug, a muslin spritzed with their perfume or even a photograph of themselves to carry around. Some even record their voices, talking to their little one or singing a lullaby.

8. Donald Winnicott spoke widely about ‘transitional objects’, or what you and I would know as ‘comfort objects’. Teddy bears, dummies, blankets, ‘lovies’ or any other object which a child can use to transition from complete dependence to relative independence from you.  First Mummy or Daddy sleeps with the comforter to transfer all their comforting scents onto the comforter. When introduced to your baby/toddler,the comforter helps to create a cosy safe environment for your little one to drift off to sleep whilst still feeling the closeness of you. Just make sure you have more than one in case one gets lost!

 

9. Try to keep the rest of your life as constant as possible, nine months is not the greatest time to go on holiday for instance, or start a trial session at nursery or the gym crèche.

10. Be kind on yourself whilst your baby is experiencing separation anxiety. This is the real key, the key to surviving this period is you.  You can’t do much to speed your baby through this stage, nor can you stop them from feeling totally normal feelings, but what you can do is change how you respond. In order to respond with compassion for your baby you need to nurture yourself. Sleep when you can, enlist help from people your baby already has a secure attachment with, even if it is just for them to sit cuddling your baby for an hour whilst you soak in the bath, ask people to prepare meals for you, consider temporarily employing a cleaner or somebody to do your washing and ironing for you (using our local laundarettes service wash was a Godsend for me during this phase with my children!). Find something that helps you to mentally relax – yoga, relaxation CDs, running, reading a good book and know that “this too will pass”.

The easiest way to survive separation anxiety is with the help of your family and friends, this is the key – as summed up so well by the father of attachment theory – Bowlby – himself:

“Just as children are absolutely dependent on their parents for sustenance, so in all but the most primitive communities, are parents, especially their mothers, dependent on a greater society for economic provision. If a community values its children it must cherish their parents.” (John Bowlby, 1951)

Sarah (Mum to Four, Parenting Author and Founder of BabyCalm Ltd)

You can read more of Sarah’s articles HERE.

Why You Should Celebrate International Babywearing Week – Guest Post by Babywearing UK

Many thanks to Victoria Ward from Babywearing UK for this guest blog post:

 

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Celebrate International Babywearing Week Oct 8-14th, 2012

Every year, families around the world get together to celebrate ‘International Babywearing Week‘. What is it, you might ask? And why the need to celebrate what is actually something simple: carrying your child? Is there anything novel about that?

For thousands of years, women carried their babies everywhere: in the house, at work, outside… It was the best – and possibly the only way – to keep them safe and warm. Then it became usual to place babies in various contraptions away from their mothers – from buggies to car seats, rocking chairs, cots, even walkers. As usual with these things, you might have noticed that the tide is turning. More and more parents (re)-discover that it is practical and convenient to carry their baby. And it is actually a good thing.

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Above image Copyright Calin Bleu

Parents can be at a loss to understand their newborn. Why is he fussing? Is he hungry, tired, does he need a clean nappy? Carrying your baby close helps you understand his signs much quicker, establishing the early foundations of communication and satisfying his needs before he gets to the full-on cries. A much nicer experience for the whole family.

The extra cuddles and closeness give the baby just the reassurance he needs to transition from the womb to the outside world. It can be bright and noisy out there but snuggled up against mummy or daddy’s chest, it’s alright. The closeness allows baby to sense his parents’ reactions much better and gradually makes sense of his experiences.

If you have to be separated from your baby for work or other reasons, carrying him closely in a baby sling while you are with him – perhaps on the way to nursery – is a good way to catch up on closeness. It is also true for working fathers who might not be able to see their little one as much as they want during the week. A baby sling is not just for parents: try lending a baby carrier to your childminder and show her how you use it. She will be able to comfort your baby throughout the day even if she has other children to care for.

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Above image copyright Moby Wrap

‘Babywearing’ is not just for newborns and babies. There are numerous child carriers who have been designed to fit toddlers. They allow you to carry your child right up to about 20kg (45lb). You can help him catch a nap on your back in the middle of a busy day, or encourage him to walk independently knowing that if he gets too tired, you can pop him on your back. A baby sling is a good way to keep young children safe in busy surroundings – at the market or when you’re travelling on public transport for example. Perched on your back, they have a good view of their surroundings (probably less scary that if they were much lower on the ground, surrounded by what must surely seem like giants!).

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Above Image: Copyright. Connecta Baby Carrier.

So why celebrate International Babywearing Week? Because parents all around the world are choosing to parent their children a different way, a way that suits the whole family. Because carrying their baby or their toddler in a comfortable baby carrier allows parents to live the life they want to live with their child.

To find a babywearing event near you visit: www.babywearing.co.uk

 

A Guest blog by Victoria Ward from Babywearing UK.

To Swaddle or not to Swaddle?

Is any issue more emotive in the babycare world at the moment?

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Emotive in general, but also a point that I am asked to comment on at least once per week in response to questions from, mostly, potential BabyCalm teachers – concerned that BabyCalm “advocate swaddling”. My answer is always “BabyCalm don’t advocate anything! That’s not what we do – we’re all about empowering parents and in order to truly empower we must allow the parent to make his or her own informed choice – and sometimes that choice may be something that makes our heart sing, othertimes it may be something that makes us uncomfortable – BUT – and it’s a big but! – we have to learn that our feelings must stay that – OUR feelings.”

So, what’s the deal with swaddling and BabyCalm?

In short we present the idea of swaddling to parents as one of many, many ways that they can soothe their baby (and those of you who have attended a BabyCalm class will know how little of it is taken up with soothing techniques – in short it’s the smallest part of what we do!) and it is just that “presented”. As with any other method we present we always disccuss the pros and cons of the technique and we help parents to know how to do it safely, with the minimal amount of risks as possible – be that dummy use, bedsharing, babywearing or swaddling. I am always concerned when somebody says “That’s dangerous – never do it” (FSIDs and bedsharing anyone?) or “That interrrupts feeding – never do it” because things are NEVER that cut and dried………..sure most things in life have risks, but most have benefits too and ways to reduce those risks.

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What would you suggest in this scenario? A mum with a 6 week old baby who confesses to you she’s not coping, her baby is very fretful and sleeps fitfully. She is at the end of her tether, she admits that the exhaustion and lack of sleep she’s experiencing is now affecting her bonding with her baby, she’s desperate. She also tells you that she is happily formula feeding, baby is in her own cot (and she wants it to stay that way) and babywearing isn’t for her. She’s tried swaddling and it really seems to help, she’s using a fleece blanket and pulling it really tight all around the baby. This scenario is precisely when swaddling can be a God send – this scenario is the norm in the UK, outside of the AP bubble of breastfeeding, bedsharing and babywearing………..but, this scenario is when swaddling can be dangerous and why we still teach swaddling in BabyCalm, we teach how to reduce those risks as much as possible.

Think of another scenario – Mum of a 6wk old baby who confesses to you she’s not coping, her baby is very fretful and sleeps fitfully. She is at the end of her tether, she admits that the exhaustion and lack of sleep she’s experiencing is now affecting her bonding with her baby, she’s desperate. She is breastfeeding and open to suggestions of babywearing, bedsharing and co-bathing…..what would you suggest here? would it be different to the above? Of course it would! but……..what if this mum’s informed choice was *still* to swaddle rather than bedshare/babywear/cobath/skin to skin? is that your position to tell her what NOT to do? even though she’s thoroughly considered the pros and cons and made her decision – most definitely NOT!

In my opinion telling somebody NOT to swaddle – ever, is just as bad as telling them to ALWAYS swaddle, as certain baby experts might! Frankly it is none of our business what parents do and I’m always shocked that some in this profession think that it is by passing on their own strong feelings (often backed by hunches and opinion, not evidence) to vulnerable new parents. This is NOT letting the parent make an informed choice!

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So what are the pros and cons of swaddling? What does current research and our own anecdotal opinion tell us?

PROS

  1. Swaddling can help promote new sleep cycles/less waking.
  2. Swaddling can help prevent prolonged crying. (but see 8 below!)
  3. Swaddling can help breastfeeding when a baby has flailing hands making latch difficult (but see 2 below!)
  4. Swaddling can help a baby to not accidentally scratch his face
  5. Swaddling can stop loose blankets going on top of the babies face
  6. Swaddling can prevent a baby from rolling onto his tummy during sleep.
  7. Swaddling Can give parents a technique to calm their baby and thus time to calm themselves, this is heightened for parents who make the choice to formula feed and not bedshare/babywear etc..
  8. Swaddling can help a baby feel ‘held’ and perhaps as if still in utero.

CONS

  1. Swaddling can lead parents to miss baby’s early hunger cues
  2. Swaddling can inhibit breastfeeding, particularly in the early days
  3. Swaddled babies cannot suckle on their own hands as they may have done in utero
  4. There is an increased risk of SIDs shown in studies when babies placed to sleep on stomach swaddled
  5. Swaddling can cause hip dysplasia if babies are swaddled too tightly over hips
  6. Swaddling can cause respiratory compression if babies are swaddled too tightly over chest
  7. Swaddling has been linked to less arousability, if the swaddling was not started until 3months of age.
  8. Swaddling prevents a baby’s freedom of movement and expression.

If a parent would still like to swaddle their baby after considering the above, how best to do so as safely as possible?

When Swaddling Always Remember:

  1. Never swaddle over a baby’s head or near their face
  2. Never swaddle a baby who is ill/has a fever
  3. Ensure the baby does not overheat – only swaddle with a breathable/thin fabric
  4. Only swaddle until a baby can roll **
  5. Always place a swaddled baby to sleep on their back
  6. Do not swaddle tightly across the chest
  7. Do not swaddle tightly around the hips/legs. Legs should be free to “froggy up”
  8. Begin swaddling well before 3 months of age, if breastfeeding only once feeding established and never in the first few hours postpartum (in the hospital!) when skin to skin is necessary!

** The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends swaddling for babies 0-14weeks only.

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I’m being a bit lazy here as it’s the first day of school summer holidays and I want to take my kids out on a picnic – so here’s a great summary of up to date swaddling evidence.

So what’s BabyCalm’s position on swaddling? To be honest we don’t really have one! other than we are committed to letting parents make their own choices and helping them to have the information they need to do so. For some swaddling is an amazing tool, for others it’s quite the reverse! There is no “one size fits all approach” when it comes to new parents and babies and *THAT* is our position!

Sarah (Founder of BabyCalm)

Are you a Dummy Mummy?

Dummy = pacifier to my overseas readers!

I’ve been asked twice this week if I know of any evidence on the pros and cons of dummy use, naturally being the science geek that I  am, I do indeed know of an embarrassingly large collection of trials for both camps of the debate. I thought it might be handy to pop a quick post together to summarise the evidence.

One thing is for sure and that’s dummy use is highly prevalent in the UK.  The Avon Longitudinal Study found that nearly 60% of the 10,950 babies in the sample had used a dummy by four weeks of age!

Dummy Positives:

1) Dummy use may reduce SIDs risk

dummyMitchell, Blair and L’Hoir at the University of Auckland, New Zealand carried out a trial in 2006 which found “a remarkably consistent reduction of SIDS with pacifier use. The mechanism by which pacifiers might reduce the risk of SIDS is unknown, but several mechanisms have been postulated. ” Ditto researchers Moon, Tanabe, Yan, Young and Hauck at the Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health recently conducted a population based case-control study of 260 SIDS deaths and 260 matched living controls. Finding that dummy use decreased SIDs risks and that “pacifier use decreased SIDS risk more when mothers were ≥20 years of age, married, nonsmokers, had adequate prenatal care, and if the infant was ever breastfed. Pacifier use also decreased the risk of SIDS more when the infant was sleeping in the prone/side position, bedsharing*, and when soft bedding was present.”  A further study published in the BMJ in 2006 and conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northern California also found once again that dummy use “was associated with a reduction in risk in every category of sociodemographic characteristics and risk factors examined”.

It has been postulated that dummy use helps to keep infants in a back lying position and that this is what contributes to reduced SIDs levels although follow up research did not find this to be the case.

This research has led to the American Academy of Pediatrics & FSIDs recommending using a dummy at every sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS (and waiting  until 1mth in the case of introducing a dummy to  breastfed babies so that breastfeeding can become established).

*note I cannot find any information on whether this was all bedsharing lumped together or co-sleeping following safety guidelines.

2) Dummies can help to calm a fractious baby

dummy3Suckling is nature’s best comforter, if the mum is breastfeeding she has all she needs – although many choose to use dummies to help partners calm the baby or when she needs time alone, but bottle feeding mums are often helped greatly by the addition of a dummy which gives their baby a chance to suck when they are not being fed. Interestingly, there are marked differences in dummy use around the world – as I’ve already mentioned above the Avon Longitudinal study found 60% of British babies used dummies, whereas in their study “Soothing methods used to calm a baby in an Arab country” by Abdulrazzaq, Al Kendi and Nagelkerke which analysed data from  702 mothers from the UAE nationality, other Arabs, other Muslims, Indians and Philippinos in 2009 found that whilst 99.1% used breastfeeding as a soothing method, less than 10% used dummies to soothe their babies!

3) Dummies may help cranial bones re-align.

During labour the baby’s cranial bones move and overlap (think of a cone headed newborn!), this is normal and the bones usually return to their normal position over a few days after the birth, mostly via the process of the baby sucking (and the movement of the upper and lower jaw) which stimulates the base of the skull via the palate. Sometimes however things don’t return to normal and often abnormal skull compression becomes noticeable via the baby’s feeding habits and need to suck much more than usual. If the baby’s vagus nerve (the nerve directly linked to digestion) is compressed this can also have noticeable effects on a baby’s digestive system causing pain. All of this is more likely to happen if the labour is long, the baby is malpresented, I often notice babies who laid in an asynclitic presentation during labour are more sucky. For bottle fed babies in particular dummies can be very useful for a baby who needs to suck a lot. Sadly I cannot find evidence to support (or refute!) these claims although anecdotally many chiropractors and cranial osteopaths around the world agree and a recent literature review of “The chiropractic care of infants with colic” by Alcantara in June 2011 published in the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association reported that  “Our findings reveal that chiropractic care is a viable alternative to the care of infantile colic and congruent with evidence-based practice, particularly when one considers that medical care options are no better than placebo or have associated adverse events.”

Dummy Negatives

1) Dummy use increases the risk of Otitis Media (ear infections)

dummy2Science suggests there is a definite link between dummy use and paediatric ear infections. A Finnish study by Niemala, Pihakari, Pokka and Uhari published in Pediatrics  in 2000 found the occurrence of Acute Otitis Media  (AOM) was 29% lower amongst children whose parents had been told to limit dummy use. A Dutch cohort study published in Family Practice in 2008 by Rovers et al found once again that dummy use was a risk factor for ear infections. In their study of the 216 children that used a dummy 35% developed at least one episode of AOM, and of the 260 children that did not use a dummy a smaller percentage of 32% developed at least one AOM episode and for recurrent AOM, these figures were 16% versus 11% respectively.

2) Dummy use causes orthodontic damage

Research suggests that dummy use can cause orthodontic changes, however the research seems to suggest that this happens with long term (2yrs+) dummy use only *. A 1994 study by Ogaard B, Larsson E & Lindsten R entitle “The effect of sucking habits, cohort, sex, intercanine arch widths and breast or bottle feeding on posterior crossbite in Norwegian and Swedish 3-year old children” found that ther was a high prevalence of posterior crossbite in dummy users, however their analyses of covariance revealed that at least 2 years of dummy use was necessary to produce a significant effect in the upper jaw and 3 years in the lower jaw.

* note – I am unable to discover whether the research looked at regular  or orthondic type dummies.

Dummy use has an adverse effect on breastfeeding

breastisbestor1A study published last month by Gerd, Bergman, Dahlgren, Roswall and Alm entitled “Factors associated with discontinuation of breastfeeding before 1 month of age.” found that there was a negative correlation between breastfeeding and use of a dummy, however the famous 2011 Cochrane review into “pacifier use versus no pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding”  found that dummy use in healthy term breastfeeding infants, started from birth or after lactation is established, did not significantly affect the prevalence or duration of exclusive and partial breastfeeding up to four months of age. However, evidence to assess the short-term breastfeeding difficulties faced by mothers and long-term effect of pacifiers on infants’ health is lacking.
I wonder if you’re now feeling like me? non the wiser! non of this research seems particularly compelling to me and could be used to support either “pro” or “anti” dummy use (and indeed it is!). For the record I don’t really have a position on dummies, I think they work for some families/babies and not for others – I’ve suggested them to some of the parents I’ve worked with and have suggested to others they might want to stop using them. One thing is for sure though there are a few basic guidelines to follow when using dummies:
  • wait until breastfeeding is well established (FSID suggest breastfeeding mums don’t use a dummy for the first 4wks).
  • only give your baby a dummy when they really need it (i.e: to calm crying, or help a fractious baby sleep) but take the dummy away when the baby is calm to prevent the dummy use becoming habitual.
  • try to get rid of the dummy by 6 months, by this time the benefits have pretty much served their purpose – longer use can take you more into the negative camp.
  • Always be led by your baby! if your baby won’t take a dummy – don’t persevere, listen to them!