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Monday, 11 July 2011

It starts with the dummy

Looking at childhood obesity, we can trace it back to the moment our babies start crying. Using dummies (pacifiers) can lead to childhood obesity. Why would a bit of plastic lead to obesity? After all dummies have no calories, right?

Let me explain. Dummies are dangerous devices. They tend to muffle the emotions of our babies. They tend to be used by most parents (and I was one of them) as devices to silence our babies when they cry and are used as a first port of call when babies show discomfort. What consequences does it have?

A baby's cries can be caused by several things (when baby is healthy, of course) apologies to parents of a baby boy but I have used the feminine gender for baby to simplify my point:

  • baby is hungry - feed her
  • baby is tired - rock her to sleep
  • baby has a dirty nappy (diaper) - change her nappy
  • baby needs a cuddle - cuddle her
  • baby is upset - cuddle her
  • baby is uncomfortable - pick her up and engage with her
  • baby is bored - play with her
The danger of dummies is to use it for all of the above, when really each of the above should trigger a specific response of its own (shown in green). Dummies are dangerous because they are easy to use as a solution to it all. Dummies are dangerous because they teach your baby that the response to all of the above is to put something in your mouth. And there starts the conditioning of putting something in your mouth to soothe yourself. Later on in life, that baby will be tempted when things go pear shaped in her life, to use food, alcohol or tobacco as a crutch. 

Dummies are dangerous because unlike a mother's breast or a thumb, they can be forced upon a child. It is a lot harder to force a breast into a child's mouth (although not impossible) or her own thumb than to stick a dummy in a baby's mouth. Dummies are dangerous because they are so easy to use.  Dummies are dangerous because they numb your emotions and your needs by responding to all of them with sucking and with mindlessness. They are a short term solution. And they can cause issues with speech and communication. Dummies are also dangerous when you breastfeed as they cause nipple confusion and can lead to a child not eating enough or refusing to nurse. This in turn will lead to supplementing a mother's milk which can lead to the need to stop breastfeeding all together. And breastfeeding is one of the best start for our children in the quest for a healthy and slim lifestyle. 

Dummies... are shortcuts in dealing with babies emotions and can set bad habits for life. They are tempting us parents to go for the easy option instead of spending all our waking hours engaged in the lives of our little ones and tending to their needs. Dummies are convenient for parents but can be developmentally damaging for babies. I was led to believe that dummies were better than thumbs for teeth and the palate of babies, but I think the cons largely override the pros. 

In short, avoid dummies in your children if you want to give them the best start on their slim journeys. 

Tomorrow, we will discuss why bottle fed children are at higher risk of obesity than other children. 

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

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