Home truths about soothing
If only I had known how damaging his finger had been to his mouth.

When Mikhail was 10 months old, I took his NUK dummy away. I had heard about children who still sucked their dummies at three or four years old and I didn’t want this to happen to my son.

So one night I simply took it away. Mik was too young to ask for it, he just cried and cried and then he discovered his index finger! At last... silence. For the next six years Mik sucked his finger until the nail became soft and we worried his finger might fall off. We tried everything, but eventually resigned ourselves to the fact that there was nothing we could do.

By the time Mik turned seven, he was developing serious buckteeth and Dr Nicol, our dentist, told us that if he fell on his face he could cause damage to his permanent teeth. The orthodontist, Dr  Weber, explained that Mikhail had an inherited malocclusion (overbite) that had been exacerbated by his finger sucking. Correcting his overbite has so far cost over R40 000 in orthodontist’s fees, but that is nothing compared to Mik's psychological pain, or the discomfort of wearing braces for a long time.

Left: Mik’s jaw demonstrated the body’s amazing ability to
adapt around a physical intervention.

This has affected his self-confidence, evidenced by his embarrassed smiles and mannerisms developed to hide his teeth. Mik is nearly 16 now and will soon have his braces removed. When our daughter Olivia was born a month before Mikhail turned 10, I was much wiser – because I now worked for NUK!

Comforting lessons

I know that most children need some form of comforter, be it a “blankie”, bottle, breast, finger, thumb or a dummy. Each one of these has its drawbacks. A “blankie” is unhygienic and tends to disintegrate or get lost. With bottles, it is not the orthodontic teat that is the problem, but rather the contents of the bottle. The sugar in
juice attacks the enamel on teeth, so a child falling asleep with juice in his mouth, even just for a couple of hours, can cause himself severe tooth decay.

Mom’s breast, on the other hand, cannot be lost and is fantastic for the baby, but it is not realistic to expect a mother’s breast to act as a regular soother for a growing baby or toddler.

This leaves the lottery of the finger or thumb (and possibly similar problems to the one we experienced with Mik) or the dummy. The NUK dummy was designed by a professor and a doctor – both in orthodontics – in answer to a call by the German government for a solution to rapidly increasing jaw development problems, xperienced after World War Two.

The solution was the NUK orthodontic shape. NUK is short for Natuerlich und Kiefergerecht, loosely translated as “natural and correct for the jaw”. The NUK dummy essentially exercises the jaw, in the correct way, between feeds. It is as simple as that. If only I’d known this when Mik was a baby!

When Olivia turned two we started to limit daytime dummy use and she quickly learned that her “nummy” was only for sleep time. She eventually gave it up when she turned four, declaring dummies were for babies.

So many parents simply don’t understand the trauma caused by trying to take away the “blankie” or dummy too early. Your child will make that decision at the appropriate time (Olivia proved that to us). And remember: your child needs contact with you, especially in the first 18 months, so hold your baby as much as you can, particularly if you bottle feed.

I recently read about an interesting study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics who came to the conclusion that children going to sleep with a soother
have a considerably reduced risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). SIDS is one of the leading causes of death worldwide amongst infants who are under
the age of 1 year. It was shown that using a dummy halves the risk of SIDS from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 4000.*

We’re passionate about what we do and would love to answer any questions or hear your stories, so please call us on 011 430 5600 or email info@nuk.co.za.
You can either speak to me or Sr Ashleigh, our midwife, antenatal teacher and breastfeeding consultant.”

Yours Truly,
William Wertheim Aymes, MD,
Artemis Natural Products
(importers of NUK Orthodontic products)

*Sources: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Dr H Willacy, 2007, www.patient.co.uk

Scandinavian research of comparisons between finger sucking and dummies
shows that 20% of finger suckers are still sucking their fingers at the age of
6 years, whereas 0% of dummy suckers use adummy at age 5.

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