The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) has issued new advice to parents on the use of dummies. The charity says that "Settling your baby to sleep with a dummy - even for naps - can reduce the risk of cot death. "If breast-feeding, do not begin to give a dummy until your baby is one month old to ensure breastfeeding is well-established. Don't worry if the dummy falls out while your baby is asleep, and don't force your baby to take a dummy if he or she doesn't want it. Never coat the dummy in anything sweet." The new advice follows the decision by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend that a dummy should be offered every time an infant is put down to sleep, once breast-feeding has been established.
Epidemiological studies in recent years have suggested that babies who are regularly given a dummy when put down to sleep have a reduced risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The AAP set up a research group who performed a meta-analysis of all the adequate studies. (A meta-analysis is a statistical method that allows the results of multiple studies to be combined, increasing the numbers in the analysis and thus strengthening the confidence with which the results can be expressed.) The meta-analysis showed that the use of a dummy halved the number of SIDS cases1. A subsequent study in California has also shown an even greater protective effect associated with the use of dummies2. The reason for the protective effect is not yet understood.
The Department of Health leaflets on cot deaths have been updated to include the new recommendations, but the Department emphasises that parents should continue to place babies on their backs to sleep and follow all the existing advice on prevention.1. Hauck FR, Omojokun OO, Siadaty MS. Do pacifiers reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome? A metaanalysis. Pediatrics. 2005 Nov; 116(5):e716-23 2. Li DK, Willinger M, Petitti DB, Odouli R, Liu L, Hoffman HJ. Use of a dummy (pacifier) during sleep and risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): population based case-control study. British Medical Journal 2006; 332(7532): 18-22