Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Dummies and comforters

9-minute read

Key Facts

  • Dummies and comforters can help babies to soothe and settle more easily.
  • When used consistently, dummies can reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
  • It’s important to make sure breastfeeding is well established before offering a dummy.
  • Parents need to frequently check their baby’s dummy or comforter for safety.
  • Prolonged used of a dummy (beyond 4 years of age) can lead to tooth alignment problems.

Should I give my baby a dummy or comforter?

The choice of which to use is up to you and your baby. Be mindful of not offering your newborn baby a dummy until breastfeeding is well established — this is usually the first 4 to 6 weeks after birth. Comforters are not recommended for babies aged less than 7 months.

Many babies like to suck on a dummy or hold a comforter when they’re settling themselves to sleep. Some babies have a very strong sucking urge which isn’t fully satisfied by feeding. Offering a dummy can be a solution to unsettled periods in-between their feeds. There is strong evidence that dummies are associated with a reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) when they are used consistently.

Even when they’re awake, babies can be soothed by sucking on a dummy (pacifier) or holding a familiar toy, also called a ‘cuddly’. All babies have their own preferences — some prefer to suck on a dummy, others build an emotional attachment to a toy and some babies like to have both.

The most popular comforter options are soft toys, or squares of soft fabric. Babies can also develop an attachment to an item of their parent’s clothing or a toy that was owned by an older sibling. It’s not always clear why a particular toy becomes so important to a young child. For some unknown reason, they develop a connection to a comforter, independent of their parent’s input.

What is safe to use for my baby?

Whether you choose to offer your baby a dummy or a comforter, it’s important that you make sure they are safe.

When offering your baby a comforter:

  • check your baby’s comforter is in sound condition and doesn’t pose a risk to their safety
  • avoid offering your baby a comforter with a dummy attached
  • don’t use any soft toys as comforters in your baby’s sleeping environment until they are 7 months of age because of the risk of suffocation
  • don’t use comforters that contain batteries or have loose ties

Safety tips for dummies

There are several things to be know and do if your child uses a dummy.

  • Dummies and dummy chains bought in Australia need to meet an Australian Standard for safety. This covers all components of the dummy being free from any sharp edges, the size of the dummy meeting a minimum size and the teat being smooth and intact so no fluid can leak inside.
  • Replace your baby’s dummy when it is showing signs of wear. Also check the manufacturer’s recommendations on when the dummy needs to be replaced.
  • Never use a ribbon or a cord to attach your baby’s dummy to their clothing or bed linen.
  • Avoid leaving your baby’s dummy in the sunlight or in hot areas, like the car; this can cause dummies to perish.
  • Check your baby’s dummy each time you offer it to them. Make sure the teat, shield and handle are all firmly attached and won’t separate under pressure.
  • Never dip a dummy in honey or other sweet foods or drinks. This can lead to tooth decay.
  • Always follow good hygiene practices with your child’s dummy. There is a risk of infection from dummies if they are picked up from the floor or shared with other children.
  • Babies who have chronic or recurrent otitis media (middle ear infections) should have restricted dummy use.

Also check that your baby’s dummy:

  • is the right size for your baby so it can’t fit fully into their mouth and block their airway
  • has parts that are firmly connected — the teat of the dummy and surrounding seal should not be able to detach because this is a choking hazard
  • has ventilation holes in the shield

When can my baby start using a dummy?

If you are breastfeeding, try not to offer your baby a dummy until breastfeeding has been established, which is usually after the first 4 to 6 weeks. Dummies can be offered to bottle-fed babies from birth. It’s normal for breastfed babies to want to comfort feed and use the breast as a way of calming. Try to follow your baby’s cues which will give you some understanding of what they want.

How do I keep dummies clean?

Dummies need to be rinsed in cold water after use and then washed in soap and hot water. Dummies should also be sterilised in the same way as other feeding equipment. Boiling, steam or chemical sterlising are all safe ways to clean dummies.

Can dummies help with teething?

When they’re teething, many children become more ‘oral’, wanting to chew and suck for comfort. Babies who are already used to sucking on a dummy may want to have it more often and fuss if the dummy isn’t in their mouth.

What are amber beads?

An amber bead teething necklace is a string of round amber chips the child wears around their neck. The amber forms from fossilised tree resin, which is shaped into rounded, small beads that are threaded onto a piece of string or cord. Manufacturers claim the resin has anti-inflammatory properties once warmed by the child’s skin and can help to soothe a child’s swollen, sore gums.

Amber bead anklets and bracelets are also available, although necklaces are the most popular. The beads come in a range of colours, from white to yellow and from beige to brown.

Are amber bead necklaces safe?

Amber bead necklaces and bracelets are not safe to use. They are a strangulation hazard to children if they tighten around the child’s neck. They can also break, and the child could inhale the beads if they mouth or chew the necklace. Some necklaces have a magnetic clasp which, if swallowed, could cause gut perforation.

There is no clear evidence that amber bead necklaces or jewellery help to soothe a teething child.

If you do choose to use amber beads, you should:

  • always supervise your child when they are wearing amber bead necklaces, bracelets or anklets
  • remove any amber bead jewellery before you leave your child alone and when they go to sleep
  • never let your child chew on the amber beads

When should my baby stop using a dummy?

Most children stop their sucking habits between 2 and 4 years of age. As a general guide, sucking on a dummy or thumb sucking is not a problem for children unless they are still sucking on either of these when their permanent teeth start erupting. Stopping your baby from using a dummy before then reduces the risk of their teeth being misaligned.

It’s also useful to limit dummies just for sleep times. Speech development can be affected if a child is sucking on a dummy for long periods of time.

How can I help wean my child off the dummy?

You can either stop offering your baby their dummy altogether, or slowly reduce the times you offer it. Most babies have an emotional and physical attachment to their dummy, and it can take a couple of days to adjust to not having it anymore. It can help to offer them comfort in other ways, with lots of soothing and extra cuddles until they become used to not having their dummy.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

Baby Dummies and Pacifiers | Newborn Dummy | Tresillian

Using a dummy provides a newborn baby with non-nutritive sucking which is a natural thing for babies to do and it often helps calm and soothe them.

Read more on Tresillian website

Dummy independence: teaching your baby | Raising Children Network

Dummy independence is when babies can put their dummies in by themselves. This helps if your baby uses a dummy to settle. You can teach dummy independence.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Teething

Teething can start between 4 and 10 months and usually makes babies fussy and cranky. Find out how to ease your baby’s teething discomfort and care for new and emerging teeth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Dummies | Product Safety Australia

Babies can be at risk of choking or infection from old, poorly made or poorly maintained dummies. Make sure you buy dummies that cannot be easily pulled apart and discard dummies when they start showing signs of wear.

Read more on Product Safety Australia website

Thumbsucking and dummies | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Thumbsucking, or the use of a dummy by a baby, is little cause for concern before permanent teeth appear.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Baby teeth

Baby teeth start to come through the gums at about 6 months and have usually all appeared by 2 to 3 years of age. Learn how to care for baby teeth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Dummies: advantages, disadvantages & tips | Raising Children Network

Dummies soothe some babies and help them settle. But dummies can be a hard habit to break, and babies also need help to manage them. Get tips for dummy use.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Does Dummy Use Reduce the Risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy? | Red Nose Australia

Read more on Red Nose website

Baby sleep habits: how to phase them out | Raising Children Network

Baby sleep habits can affect the whole family. Our guide explains how to phase out sleep habits like dummies, music and rocking so you all get more sleep.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Toddler sleep: what to expect | Raising Children Network

Toddlers need 11-14 hours of sleep in 24 hours, usually 10-12 hours at night and 1-2 hours in the day. Bedtime routines can help with toddler sleep problems.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.