The following information is kindly provided by MAM Baby
This month’s topic is soothers and how to use them and in this article we hope to cover some of the questions you may have.
Babies need a sense of security and they love to suck. Nothing calms them more, nothing is as familiar. Even unborn babies are already practising with the help of their fingers. So it is hardly surprising that soothers are such a popular baby accessory. Even when they are not hungry and not drinking, sucking is pure relaxation for babies. But how often and for how long is a child allowed to have a soother? What is the best material? Can you combine breastfeeding and soothers? And what if the baby prefers his thumb?
The history of the soother
Strange but true – the history of soothers spans approximately 3,000 years! The earliest versions were made of rags and filled with flour or honey. Occasionally even alcohol or poppy seeds were added to keep babies quiet. The birth of the modern soother came in 1845 when the first rubber soother was patented. Rapid developments in the soother immediately followed, but the start of the 20th century brought major discussions about the advantages and disadvantages. The debate has since become much less heated. Today soothers are made from high-quality materials and are an essential baby accessory. They are widely accepted as fulfilling the early need to suck. In modern industrialised nations 80% of all babies enjoy the calming effect of soothers.
The natural sucking instinct
Babies are born with a strong sucking instinct. From about the 14th week of pregnancy the unborn baby can be observed sucking his fingers via ultrasound. This is how the baby relaxes and prepares himself for feeding after birth. In the 1st year the need to suck is enormous; even though its hunger is satisfied, baby actively continues to suck on average every 13 minutes. This is referred to as non-nutritive sucking which is one of the most important comforting mechanisms a baby has at his disposal and helps him deal with stress, discomfort and tension. Everything within reach is tested for its qualities as something to suck on, fingers, soft toys, cloths or soothers – there is nothing that isn’t given a try.
But not everything that baby is happy to suck on is also a suitable soothing aid. Good soothers are quality controlled and BPA- and BPS-free. Comfort from breastfeeding is unique but always being available can quickly become tough for mums. With a soother, dad, brothers and sisters or the babysitter can also calm baby. However, there are a few babies who will not accept a soother. They should not be forced. And if baby loses his soother while sleeping, it should not be put back in its mouth.
A new-born baby is ready for a soother when it weighs more than at birth and is continuing to gain weight and mother and baby are an established team and latching on is easy. In the 2nd year the need to suck slowly decreases as baby becomes more interested in solid foods and starts to talk which gives him less opportunity to suck. This is the ideal time to slowly begin weaning him off soothers.
Soothers & breastfeeding
Immediately after birth, babies want nothing more than to get to know their parents and in the first 2 to 4 weeks of life soothers should be avoided because they could interfere with learning the correct breastfeeding technique. After this time a soother can also be offered to breast-fed babies and most babies really cherish having a soother between breast feeds. It does not influence the already established breastfeeding pattern if the mother can clearly differentiate between signs of hunger and the need to be comforted. The important thing is that soother use is purposeful. It should neither be given constantly, nor should it be given to babies to delay a feed. A soother is helpful in stressful situations when babies are restless, crotchety or ill and need comforting. Tired babies can get to sleep better with a soother. The soother is also conducive to producing saliva and therefore helps wash bacteria from the mouth. Soothers can help baby to relax when teething and help parents comfort their babies.
Soothers are available in different sizes because there are big differences between tiny new-borns and fast-growing crawlers. Mouth and jaw both develop at an incredible pace. After all, growing is the main task in the first few years of life. And the soother needs to be the appropriate size to support healthy development. Age guidelines on the packaging will help you to choose the right size for your baby, but every child is unique. Big, strong babies will change soother size sooner than small, delicate infants. If in doubt, choose a soother that is slightly too small rather than one that is much too big.
Soothers & dental health
Babies are born without germs in their mouths. At this time, their individual mouth flora is rudimentary and the infantile immune system is still underdeveloped. It offers an easy breeding ground for bacteria. This is why hygiene is so important for small babies!
A soft towel can be used to gently clean baby’s mouth and get him used to daily dental care from a very early age. Saliva is a moist health supporter that rinses away bacteria and, with its antibodies, fights nasty germs that cause illnesses. A soother increases the amount of saliva because sucking stimulates production. Regularly sterilise/boil soothers and replace after about 1 to 2 months; this way germs won’t stand a chance. A soother clip ensures that the soother doesn’t fall to the floor. A clean soother is good, but parents should never “clean” it by putting it in their own mouths. Apart from different germs, caries can also be contracted in this way. Microbiological tests have shown that a soother that has fallen to the floor carries fewer germs than one that has been “cleaned” in a parent’s mouth. This also applies to spoons. A disinfected soother can be kept clean and at the ready in a soother box or a bag.
In order to prevent tooth misalignments and problematic bite development, look out for the following when using a soother: Don’t use the soother for more than 6 hours a day. Only a flat teat neck guarantees good mouth and lip closure and allows the teeth to emerge without interference. So look out for a flat, flexible and symmetrical teat when buying soothers. This puts less pressure on the teeth and jaw and adapts itself to the arch of the gums. Symmetrical teats mean that even when the soother is the wrong way up in baby’s mouth, the tongue positioning is not hampered. A soother must be light-weight so that baby can hold it in his mouth without unnecessarily straining muscles. By the 3rd birthday the child must have come off the soother to ensure the teeth continue to develop healthily. Children should never suck their thumbs! While a soother teat is soft and flexible, a finger or thumb is not. This hampers mouth closure, good tongue positioning and correct swallowing. Apart from this, the thumb is always there to be used and therefore much harder to wean off than a soother. This means that thumb sucking often continues for too long and is frequently the cause of tooth misalignment and impeded speech development. If a baby takes a liking to thumb sucking, the best thing is to offer him a soother!
The right soother
Soothers are small but a huge amount of know-how goes into them because a product that spends hours every day in baby’s mouth must fulfil the highest quality requirements. This is why some soothers are developed together with professionals. Which to choose: latex or silicone?
Silicone is synthetically manufactured, free from allergens and has no taste. The clear material looks hygienic and does not age. Its only disadvantage is that it is a little harder than latex and less bite-resistant. The soother must be thrown away as soon as the first bite marks appear, or at the latest after 1 to 2 months.
Latex is a soft, bite-resistant natural product and babies like its slightly rubbery taste. Due to the natural ageing process of the material, the teat becomes sticky and darker after some time. The soother must be thrown away as soon as the latex begins to age (at the latest after 1 to 2 months).
Soothers protect against SIDS
Babies used to using soothers should be given one for all sleeps. There is evidence which indicates that this reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
If you have any unanswered questions then please consult your paediatrician.