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.
A dummy comprises a rubber or soft plastic teat, a hard plastic shield with holes and either a ring or a handle to hold the device easily. Babies suck on dummies for comfort. Dummies are also called pacifiers or soothers.
Risks and injuries
Most baby dummies are safe. While injuries from dummies are rare, there are risks associated with using old dummies or dummies that do not meet mandatory safety requirements. Children under three years old are particularly at risk of choking as they have not yet developed the reflex action to cough up objects that lodge in their throats.
Babies using unsafe dummies can choke:
- if dummy shields are too small and don’t have ventilation holes. A dummy that is too small can get wholly inside a baby’s mouth and block the airway.
- when the teat detached from the shields of old or poorly made dummies. It can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause suffocation.
Babies can also suffer:
- strangulation if dummies attached to a cord or ribbon wrap around their neck or hook onto other objects
- infections when the teat of an old or poorly made dummy allows saliva, food and other substances with bacteria to enter inside it, or when the dummy is not cleaned properly.
- Choose a dummy with a shield and ventilation holes to prevent suffocation if a baby manages to place the whole dummy in his or her mouth.
- Check the dummy before each use by pulling gently on the teat and hold the shield and tugging on the handle or ring to make sure it will not give way under pressure.
- Never use ribbon or cord to attach dummies to children’s clothing, cots or prams. These ties can get caught and wrap around a child’s neck and cause strangulation.
- Never leave a dummy in direct sunlight or hotspots, such as in the car, as this can cause rubber to perish.
- Replace dummies regularly according to the manufacturer's recommendations or sooner if worn or damaged.
- Check your child’s dummy before every use and throw it away if you see holes, tears or bite marks.
- Never leave a baby with a dummy in their mouth if they cannot remove it on their own.
- Sterilise or wash dummies according to manufacturer's recommendations.