BBC NEWS | Health | Dummies ‘reduce cot death risk’

BBC NEWS | Health | Dummies ‘reduce cot death risk’

It’s from the BBC, and the ‘divided by a common language’ rule applies: dummy=pacifier, and cot=crib.
original clipart from

Giving a baby a dummy when they go to sleep may reduce their risk of cot death by 90%, a US study says.
It compared 185 cases of sudden infant death syndrome with 312 healthy babies and adjusted for known risk factors.

The British Medical Journal study found the benefit was greatest for children sleeping in an ‘adverse’ environment.

It said dummies may help stop babies from cutting off their air supply. UK experts welcomed the research, but stressed it was a small study.

Cot death rates have fallen in recent years, but it still claims the lives of 300 babies aged under a year old in the UK every year.

The researchers, from healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente, say that approximately one in 2,000 babies die of cot death in California.

But, if all babies used a dummy, they calculate the risk would be one in 20,000.

They say the key may be the fact that dummies usually have a bulky external handle. This may help to prevent a child from cutting off its air supply by burying its face into soft bedding, or an overlaying object such as a blanket.

Writing the BMJ, they also say sucking on a dummy may enhance the development of pathways in the brain that control how airways in the upper respiratory system work.

Previous research has also suggested the use of dummies can cut the risk of cot death – but not to the same extent.

And, a recapitulation of advice to avoid crib death already out there:

Put your baby to sleep on its back
Do not expose your child to smoke
Keep your baby cool, with its head uncovered
Parents should not share a bed with their baby if they are very tired, smoke or have been drinking or taking drugs which make you drowsy. But the baby should be in a cot in the same room for at least the first six months
The adverse conditions included babies sleeping in a house where both parents smoked.

I like “dummy” over “pacifier”, by the way.


  1. Yep, this one has got a huge amount of publicity over here. It’s hurting the “tree-huggers” and the “earth-mothers” who for years have condemned pacifers/dummies as “unnatural” etc.

    I wonder if it’s really true? I’ve been on the medical roundabout now for so long that I can sympathise with Galileo having to recant!!

  2. DougSundseth says:

    “I like “dummy” over “pacifier”, by the way.”

    Then you might also like an Australian* colloquialism:

    “To spit the dummy.”

    Used for adult tantrums of various sorts.

    *Perhaps other nations too, but I’ve seen it used by Australians.

  3. I like that one! “Spit the dummy”. Funny!

  4. The American College of Pediatricians has endorsed this concept, actually. There is a newish meta-review out in their journal that supported the pro-pacifier stance.