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The impact of Dummies in Early Childhood Development

Did you know?

* Dummies date back to 1,000 BC, having been found in Cypriot and Roman graves of that period.
*In 1901, Christian W Meinecke designed the first dummies made of Indian rubber with the disk-shaped shield we recognise today.

Dummies certainly have their uses in the first year of life. They provide comfort and reassurance to young babies. However, it is advised that children stop using their dummies by the age of one-year-old to avoid some of the problems they may cause. For example, did you know that using a dummy can change the structure of your child's mouth as they grow? In turn, this could impact their teeth and bite as they close their mouth, which would continue into adulthood.

Importantly, dummies can impact children's speech and language development. When a child tries to talk around a dummy, air escapes through the sides of the tongue, which leads to the development of 'slushy' or lisping speech sounds.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2017), the use of dummies thickens the muscles at the front of the mouth, which can create the development of tongue thrust. This causes difficulties in producing certain sounds – for example, 's', 'z', 'sh', 'ch', 'j', 't', 'd' and 'l'.

The use of dummies also hinders the development of mouth muscles, which further affects speech sand can result in drooling, with sucking producing more saliva.

It is completely normal to feel a little worried about how your child will react and cope when you first take their dummy away. Although they may show their unhappiness in no uncertain terms at first, it's good to remember that babies and children are very adaptable and it should only take a few days until they adjust to life without a dummy!

There are different ways to approach stopping dummy use and it is your decision which way you go about it, however, once you have decided, it is important to remain firm and consistent with your decision in order for your baby to adjust to the change without getting confused.

As Christmas is approaching, consider this as a good time to take the plunge!
The most popular approaches often involve the use of a favourite character. The dummy fairy is a favourite. On the other hand, you may wish to involve a favourite toy character or holiday figure, such as Santa or the Easter Bunny. There are lots of fun ways to involve your child in the process. Start by explaining to your child that there is no longer a need for a dummy, and the dummy fairy or Santa will be collecting it and taking it to keep it safe, or to a magical place where baby fairies or animals are in need. You can make this process as fun and exciting as you like. With Christmas approaching, Santa or his elves may be about ready to collect your little ones dummy on Christmas Eve. You may wish to hang them on your Christmas tree or leave them out with a snack and drink for the big man and his helpers. A letter of thanks or a small gift from Santa or his elves will reinforce the experience and create a little distraction after the fact. Some parents cut the tops off their child's dummies or pierced a hole in the teats. Others made a slit in the end so that once the child found the dummy was 'broken' they soon lost interest.

You can also contact the local children's centre in Shefford for further advice and support.  

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