A dummy is a small plastic disc with a rubber teat attached which a baby will suck on to settle, soothe and calm itself.
Sucking is known to be a very calming sensation for a baby. For this reason, many advocate the use of a dummy to help a baby cope with tension, as well as learning to self-soothe.
There are many advantages to using a dummy. As well as helping a baby to remain calm and content, using a dummy is recommended in the prevention of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS).
The exact reason for helping to prevent SIDS is not fully understood, although it is believed to prevent a baby from lying flat on its face if it turns onto its front during sleep, thus minimising the risk of suffocation.
However, there are also some negatives. Prolonged use beyond a year is believed to damage the shape of the mouth and teeth, and can inhibit speech development.
Additionally, there is a link between dummies and ear infections as it is believed the constant sucking may result in bacteria travelling from the baby's mouth into the Eustachian tubes located within the ear.
Not all babies will take to a dummy and a child that does not show any interest should never be forced. In any case, a dummy should not be introduced until breastfeeding is established. Instead, the baby should be encouraged to suckle at the breast to calm and soothe itself so that a good milk supply can be achieved.