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Sucking to Soothe Colic

Sucking to Soothe Colic

Babies are born with several newborn reflexes to ensure their survival. One of the strong reflexes is the suck reflex. This is why newborn babies have a strong urge to suck.  Sucking is a great way to let your baby soothe their colic symptoms by themselves.

Sucking is more than just a survival instinct, it provides comfort and it helps reduce cortisol in the brain, which is the stress hormone. It relaxes a baby and helps them find some balance.

A 1984 study by American Academy of Paediatrics showed that non-nutritional sucking e.g. dummies, etc, helped babies feel less pain during a heel prick test. The babies given pacifiers spent less time crying and fussing. If sucking reduces stress and pain then colicky babies will likely benefit from sucking. Some babies suck their thumb, other babies use dummies and some breastfed infants use their mother’s nipple. All of these things enable a baby to suck and calm their central nervous system

Are dummies still regarded negatively?

After the above science suggests that infants have a high need to suck does that then mean dummies are still regarding as bad? In my opinion, no they are not. They regulate the central nervous system, it provides comfort and research also suggests that it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

I think dummies certainly have their place and I do recommend them for babies suffering with colic. If a baby is taking in excess air and then suffering with painful trapped wind, they will cry more, making the baby take in even more air. It is one big circle. Using a dummy to prevent further crying will limit the intake of air, thus preventing the tummy ache felt by a baby. A dummy can be a saviour for both parents and baby.

The drawback

I think the drawback to the dummy is when they are used to prevent a baby from communicating their needs. Yes, all babies cry as this is their only method of communication at this young age. You need to assess why they are crying and this means you need to be attuned to your baby and understand their needs. If they are hungry, non-nutritional sucking will not soothe their needs. If your baby is struggling to adapt to their new world, and navigating through the fourth trimester, then a dummy can satisfy their urge to suck and help return some balance to their high wired and sensitive system.

The use of dummies do have long term concerns such as having a negative impact on speech, teeth, etc. This is why it is advised that dummies are not used for babies past the age of 12 months.

Can sucking help a reflux baby?

It’s not just sucking to soothe colic but it helps reflux symptoms too. Babies who suffer with acid reflux, also know as gastro-oesophageal disease (gord) can benefit from using a dummy.

The sucking triggers the relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) (the valve which opens to for contents to pass through to the stomach). The relaxation of the sphincters is crucial but for babies with reflux the relaxation of the sphincter in the absence of swallowing, the so-called transient LES relaxation (TLESR), allows gastric contents to flow back up into the oesophagus, which causes the pain and the irritation. The sucking on the dummy ensures that babies keep swallowing to prevent this backflow of the acid and food.

If your baby is struggling with colic and you would like to receive expert colic advice for your family then I offer bespoke colic consultations. Find out more here; or book your free 15 minute call with me.

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