Sucking: the secret to a good night’s sleep

the secret to a good night's sleep sucking

Non nutritive sucking (ie. Sucking without feeding) really helps to calm young babies. Some babies learn to suck on their own hands from a very early age, others prefer to suck a dummy. Both are excellent soothers for young babies. Do not stop your baby from sucking but guide your baby into a method you prefer.

Thumb sucking Thumb sucking is an excellent self-calming strategy and is the first very clever, independent skill your baby learns. Your life will be easier if your baby can calm herself in this manner, especially at sleep time. The pro’s of thumb or hand sucking is that it is something your baby can use independently from very early on. The negative is that thumb suckers may have a higher risk of needing orthodontics at a later age. Whether thumb sucking will result in bucked teeth is dependent on your family’s predisposition and how long your child sucks her thumb. It is harder to get rid of a thumb sucking habit as you can’t conveniently ‘loose’ a thumb but if your baby is fussy, and sucking on her thumb really helps her to calm, worry about that later.

Remember the issue is to get your baby to calm, so that sleep can follow. In the early days, the startle and moro reflexes move the arms outwards when young babies are distressed, making it very hard to self-calm while crying. Help your baby find her hands to suck on to self-calm, by swaddling her hands close to her face. Frequently this won’t be enough to sufficiently calm her and a dummy can also be used.

Dummies On a sensory level, your baby needs to suck in order to be calm, and if she is not doing it herself (i.e. sucking her hands or thumb) a dummy is a very effective tool. Getting rid of the dummy is a bridge you can cross later. It will depend on your baby – some just reject the dummy naturally in the first year, others need to be rewarded for giving it up in the toddler years. Teaching your baby to use a dummy independently At around 6 to 9 months, many babies start to wake for mom to replace the dummy in the middle of the night. At this time the dummy is not something that is used independently.

At about 8- 9 months old however you can expect your baby to be using the dummy at night independently. If your baby is waking you to put in the dummy at night, there are three steps to help your baby (older than 8 months) to use her dummy independently at night: In the first few days, keep putting in her dummy when she cries at night, but during the day never put the dummy in her mouth. Rather place the dummy into her hand so that she learns to pop it in herself in daylight hours. Once she has achieved daytime independence, do the same at night – never place it in her mouth, rather put the dummy into her hand or attach it to a sleep blanky and put that in her hand so she must do the final step of putting the dummy into her mouth on her own.

When she has advanced to that stage (usually within a few days if she is older than 8 months), stop placing the dummy in her hand and guide her hand to the dummy in the dark. The next night put every dummy in the house into her cot giving her the maximum chance of finding it at night The message should be clear: if your baby self-soothes at night she will sleep well.

Sucking is a wonderful self soothing method. Encourage either thumb or dummy sucking for a good night’s sleep.

By Meg Faure