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Should I give my premature baby a dummy?

NICU tips Premature baby health

Should I give my premature baby a dummy?

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If you wish to give your premature baby a dummy or soother there's a number of important things to consider: 

  • A premature baby - baby born less-than 37 weeks gestation - will probably have an under-developed sucking reflex
  • All babies need to be able to co-ordinate the suck-swallow-breathe pattern of feeding
  • This reflex doesn’t develop until 32-34 weeks gestation
  • Some premature babies will have an urge to suck, but because they aren’t coordinated with the S-S-B pattern, its best to offer a dummy
  • If baby is unable to be held for skin-to-skin or too unstable to come out for a cuddle, sucking on a soother may keep them calm and settled
  • Sucking on a soother can also help keep baby calm during painful procedures
  • Using a dummy can help develop facial muscles in premature babies
  • If your baby is receiving CPAP in the NICU, using a soother can help them keep their mouths closed, maintaining pressure in their airway
  • There is evidence that babies who establish their S-S-B co-ordination sooner than others have a shorter stay in the NICU
  • If you decide to give your premature baby a dummy, it might be worthwhile restricting this once baby is ready to establish breastfeeding - dummies can cause nipple confusion (research is ongoing)
  • Some research suggests that using a dummy when putting baby to sleep can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome 
  • Don’t force your baby to take a dummy or put it back in if baby spits it out

Ask your NICU nurse if your premature baby can have a dummy

Nurses on the NICU will always ask for your consent before they offer baby a dummy or soother. Speak to them if you have any questions with regards to making this decision for your little mouse. 

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