Thursday, 14 January 2010

The big fat dummy debate

I've just been sat here this morning thinking back to the very early days of first time motherhood where I can only be described as dazed and confused.

One of the things I was totally adamant about during pregnancy was, and I quote "no child of mine will ever have a dummy". See when I was pregnant I was definitely in the "smug first parent to be" category. I used to listen to war stories from friends and colleagues and think to myself "how difficult can it be?". I used to say all the time, "When I'm a Mum, I won't do this" or "When I'm a Mum, I'm going to do this" But it was all hot air and blah blah blah, because then Little Legs arrived and our simple little existence was turned completely on its head.

I decided to breastfeed at first, I was totally clueless but I gave it a bash nonetheless. Anyway, after my second night of total sleep deprivation caused by a beautiful, but quite demanding little minx who wanted to suckle constantly, the midwife appeared like a fairy godmother. I told her what had been happening the previous two nights and her first reaction was that it was just a comfort thing and I should give Little Legs a dummy. I didn't tell her that I'd already kind of arrived at the same conclusion myself the previous day and had sent M out to buy a canny stash of the things which were now well hidden in the kitchen drawer.

That little secret stocking up hadn't been without some guilt though. I'd read all the arguments for and against the things and decided dead set against. Now here I was desperate to plug one in for even just five minutes of peace. Shock horror! "Was I a bad Mum? How would I explain myself to friends and family?". I remembered going to mother and baby groups in the early days, and almost trying to sneak the dummy in and out of my bag in case it was needed for an emergency. Seriously, that's how bad I felt. However, for us, it worked, and boy were we grateful.

Then things started to change. We began to realise that we weren't using the dummy for Little Legs but rather for ourselves, as a quick fix. Whenever we ventured out of the house we would arm ourselves with about ten of the bloody things, content in the knowledge that if things kicked off we could put a stop to trouble straight away with these wonderful inventions.

Then things got even worse! Little Legs decided to teach us the error of our ways and began waking literally every half an hour as she had lost her dummy. I remember hearing the rattle of the dummy as it hit the mattress, ten, sometimes more, times a night. It would only then be a matter of seconds before we would hear the whimper become a wail, become a scream and we'd traipse obediently down the hallway to remedy the problem.

After a fortnight of this we cracked and so began "Ditch the Dummy" week. It was cold turkey for both us and Little Legs. She had to learn to fall to sleep without her dummy and we had to learn to leave the house without the security of ten of them in the change bag. Five days of tears, tantrums and threats of divorce later we'd cracked it. It was, in hindsight, the best thing we've ever done.

I remember telling one of my friends at the time (who didn't have children) and her immediate response was "To be honest, I was really surprised that you of all of people even used one". I felt like a total failure, and a very bad woman. The jury's still out on dummies for me. It worked for us for a time but then it most definitely worked against us.

I am now a great believer in doing what you have to do to survive those difficult days. The people who are quick to judge aren't there in the early hours of morning when life is really tough. Do you know what else? My secret stash is still there. Waiting, just in case, for the next one. (I'm not PG by the way, just in case you get all excited!).

Anyway, what's your view? I would love to hear what other people think.


  1. Dang! I just left you the mother of all comments and it disappeared when I pressed post comment.

    Oh well. I will try and reconstruct here.

    I wanted to say that I think this is a wonderful post. You perfectly encapsulate all my feelings about motherhood. I'm always trying to do the right thing for my babies. I totally buy into the whole attachment parenting thing. I breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, babywear, etc. I am still nursing my 2 and a half year old and both my boys sleep with us. They are 2 and 5.

    I didn't have a lot of guilt around the whole pacifier subject, cuz neither of my boys would take one. I wanted them to, though, cuz I felt like I breastfed on demand enough, so I would have been happy for them to suck on a piece of plastic once in a while.

    But both of them hated the pacifier. Oh well.

    But as far as guilt....I am so with you. I had/have mommy guilt about so many things. Not being able to stop them from crying as babes even when I was holding them (I just posted about this 2 days ago), letting them watch TV, letting them play with non-educational toys, etc. I've tried to let a lot of it go, now that I've been around the block a few times and I realize that I need some breaks here and there in order to remain sane as a mommy.

    But the guilt still remains. I try and tell myself I am a good mom, but there are always good days and bad ones.

    You sound like a wonderful, sensitive mom and I'm sure you are doing fabulously with your little one. Try not to be too hard on yourself. I think it is natural to feel worried and guilty as a mom, but I think we need to remind each other how awesome we really are! You are doing a great job. Give yourself a pat on the back!!!

  2. Both mine had dummies - my second still does. I also thought I would never use dummies but my first baby, F, was so sucky I gave in.

    She had it until she was 3.5.... (yes, really - though by then it was strictly for bedtime only).

    With my second, T, I gave him one when he was only a few days old. Wow, I felt guilty for that. But actually I love the dummy now - it comforts him and helps him sleep. I have a cot bumper that goes all the way round his cot and I put at least 3 dummies in the corner of the cot with him at night so he can find usually find one by himself

    But, I do hate seeing him with it in his mouth in photos, I'm always trying to get it out! And I generally reserve it for at home and emergencies only.

    I remember a friend of mine whose first didn't use dummies saying she always envied those of us who could use a dummy to soothe those tricky situations when you are out. And that for me is one of the best bits - I often find it difficult to get T out of a situation or into his buggy without him kicking up a fuss, but producing the dummy just calms him right down.

    For me, the dummy is now pretty high on my list of must needs, and if I have another child I wouldn't hesitate to use one again.

    Though I'd quite like to wean T off it a little earlier than I did with his sister....

  3. I suppose the main reason I didn't give a pacifier was because I saw what a hassle it was to wean older kids off it. Also my kids were v mellow did not seem to need pacifying really so I didn't really have the problem. lucky i guess.

  4. I was never ever going to use a dummy, no way!!

    Until the breast feeding attempts ground to a halt and she would wake every couple of hours through the night. We'd start to feed her, she would have two or three sucks on a bottle and promptly fall back asleep.

    After a week or two of this we decided to try a dummy. It had the same effect without us getting up to make a bottle.

    I tortured myself over the decision to use it and even now I'm not 100% happy with it. However she only uses it at night so I'm hoping it won't be a too long term thing.

    Like you said, you do what you have to do to get by.

  5. There was no way I was ever going to use a dummy, and the midwife told me from the day E was born that E was a 'sucky' baby and I should maybe consider a dummy at some stage. E took ages and ages to breast feed, mostly because she was indeed a 'sucky' baby, but I was still adamant that she would NOT have a dummy. She started to suck her thumb at a few weeks old, and everyone said she should have a dummy to stop her sucking her thumb. No! I was adamant and had a hissy fit. Well, she is now 10 and still sucks her thumb when tired/concentrating/bored and I wish I had let her have a dummy. We all make decisions which we feel are right at the time, and that is all we can hope to do. Sometimes it may have been the wrong one, but we are only human. You sound a lovely, caring mummy so don't feel tortured - I've never seen a 10 year old sucking a dummy!! We are now using bribery to stop E, so it was an expensive mistake too.

  6. Thank you so much to everyone for the comments it's such a difficult topic on which some people have some really strong views. The fact that I'm not alone in the guilt thing is reassuring but its also fantastic to hear from Mums who have the courage to do what they need to do. Lets hear it for the Mums!

  7. Definitely do what works for you. I'm not even going to say what I did because I don't want to get into debate about it. Let's just say neither option has been shown to constitute abusive parenting so we're all fine.

  8. you could be me....other than the fact my little one still has hers. I HATED them pre-children. who doesn't? But here's the thing. It'snot actually about what I hate or love, it's about what makes my baby happy. And her "Mee mee" makes her happy. she is only allowed it on her cot, but she LOVES it and it brigns her comfort. She wants it when she's sick and when she hurts herself. and you know what -after two years of beating myself up, I allow myself this (there are so many other things to beat myself up about). It makes her happy. It gives her comfort. My aesthetic preferences aren't really important in light of that. So well done you for being brave....

  9. Oh lord! I'm so pleased someone brought this up as I LOVE this subject! Both mine had them, but i was totally like you. But unlike you they both slept through without needing constant plugging. I was against it but to be honest they both needed to suck and my boobs weren't up to it. The baby was ceratinly not as bad as the toddler, but as you say you do what you can at the time. I found a product called Soothealong from the US, a wristband with a dummy attached helped me. It meant they could suck it at night instinctively without needed me to replug. Made them and us happier. The point is though it's not just about making life easier, it was better for the girls. It was incredibly easy to take the wristband dummy off the toddler. One night of about 15 mins crying and that was it.

    I'm all for them, if they suit your style of parenting. But like anything in this crazy journey it's entirely down to your individual choice x

  10. My toddler had a dummy as soon as he went on to bottles. Purely as a comfort thing. I was lucky that he was never wanting his dummy all the time but I think you're right about the giving it to them for your sake rather than theirs. Baby girl doesn't take a dummy, she thinks it is hilarious when I let her hold the one we bought her. She's still breastfeeding though and never took to the dummy at an early age. It is good for a wee bit of distraction for them if they are whinging or teething but as soon as I got toddler off his bottle, 2 months later the dummy was gone too. Husband always said he'd never have a dummy for any of the kids however now he's says best thing he ever bought LOL!

  11. I didn't give one to any of mine but probably would have for #3 as we were that desparate for sleep. #1 has never needed anything, no way, a delicate flower facade covering up a personality that's as tough as old boots. #2 had a blanket and still does (he's 5). He loves it, it's part of the family, he will be gutted when it 'dies' and it really is falling to bits now. #3 found his thumb and never looked back. 14 months and only just sleeping through...but the health vistor had a point when she said ' least he can't lose it, or throw it outta the pushchair!' I didn't do dummies more because it would've become another habit to break; but, hey, I'm 36 and I still have a blanket!!

  12. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment and welcome to those of you who are new to my blog. Writing this post has been quite therapeutic and the comments I've received even more so. Thank you again x

  13. Great post! Like you, I was also of the 'no child of mine will have a dummy' mindset. We held off for a while, but our steriliser came with a couple of free dummies which we stuck in the back of the cupboard. Then it was like having biscuits in the house - I just couldn't resist them once I knew they were there and I have to say that for a few weeks they really did make life so much easier. Going out into the big wide world with twins was daunting enough, so I found the dummies really reassuring when we were out in public.

    I think we were quite lucky because both babies (twins) were quite picky about when they would take a dummy, and didn't get hooked on them. I still find them a brilliant delaying tactic. When Mr A wakes early in the morning, popping the dummy in can often buy us another 30-45 minutes in bed!

  14. Oh thank goodness I am not the only one that said I would never use one and then caved after about 3 weeks. Still feel like bad Mummy though and dread the day when we have to get rid of it. Also thought that day would've come by now but can't bring myself to do it - I don't get enough sleep as it is!
    Just found your blog and love it, am definitely going to become a follower.

  15. To Young Mummy and Mummy limited. Thank you both so much for commenting. I've returned the favour and super chuffed to have found two more fabulous blogs.
    YM I think I would have had a bag full of the things if venturing out with twins in the early days and ML you're not a bad Mummy and I'm sure the dummy fairy will do a fab job of taking it away as soon as she's ready to visit.

  16. I was totally like you. And with L we stuck to our principles. No dummies for us. We're middle class don't you know.... Then we had twins... and with twins you'll do anything, ANYTHING, just to get a moment's peace. So out we went and bought the dummies. And the little b*ggers wouldn't take them...

    So now I can smugly say that none of my children had a dummy, but oh, weren't there times I wish they had!

  17. I was undecided on the dummy question before Piran was born but he was poorly and in SCBU within a couple hours of arrival and was nil by mouth for the first 24 hours :( They gave him a dummy to suck as a comfort thing which was fine and so when we left the hospital a few days later we were used to it.

    I thought I would try and wean him off it at 3 months but he just decided at 2 months that he didn't want it any more and just poked it out with his tongue when we gave it to him. If you tried again he would just spit it out!

    I came to realise very quickly that it was me that was attached to the dummy as I missed it! Particularly when we were out and he was crying. Still, we coped and I am glad he doesn't need it now. The hardest part was at night because instead of sucking he started to moan to get himself to sleep. He sounded so funny and we would get the giggles as we tried to go to sleep too!

  18. Just a quickie to say I've nominated you for a sunshine blog award. Hope that's okay. Please feel free to copy the award from my blog and post on yours.

  19. I was also of the mind that I didn't want Jake to have a dummy. About 6 weeks in, on hearing that someone I respected had given her baby a dummy, I caved in too. However, Jake never took to it and we worked things out in the end.

  20. Plan B and Kelly you both me laugh.They really do have minds of their own don't they? Heartful blogger thank you so much for my award. I will add it to my blog with pride. Your blog is looking lovely by the way. I've added you to my blog roll!

  21. I use dummies when they're very little (my 4 week old gets a lot of comfort from hers at the moment), but they're usually ditched by the time they're 3 or 4 months old. I find newborns are either sleeping, feeding or grumpy. So I use the dummy when they're grumpy and that seems to help them a bit. If they don't want it they spit it out and I leave it, I don't force it on them. Don't ever feel guilty about these things, as you say, you do what you can in the early days. I've tagged you at mine (Monday's post).

  22. I think we need to go dummy cold turkey as we're currently being woken up every 1/2 hour now... exhaustion doesn't even come close to describing it!

  23. We're still on the dummy at 14 months. Mainly to sleep, but also when she's poorly, when I'll let her have anything she wants!

    We went on to the dummy when breastfeeding didn't work (marking myself out to be a particular type of mummy here!), so I wasn't concerned about it causing confusion. And she loves it. It's her signal that it's time to go to sleep. She throws it out in the night, and doesn't wake up, but we know that if she does wake up for any other reason, giving her a dummy back will normally do the trick.

    She's only just got her first teeth, but I'm conscious that I ought to start thinking about taking it away soon for that reason. But I think this age is hard to do that (I would say that!) - she's too old to forgot very quickly, but too young to understand dummy fairies...

    She's a dummy minesweeper anyway - I leave her unsupervised for a couple of minutes and the next thing I know she's found a dummy from under the cot, in the nappy bag etc etc...

  24. RebaMc. It worked for us. Good luck!
    bumbling along you're very lucky she doesn't miss it in the night. Bless her she sounds like a pro. Think LL would still have hers now too if that was the case. Know what you mean about it being a difficult age as well!

  25. You do what you have to - I've been tempted but each time have remembered that for me its scarier to leave them with people who'll be tempted to just bung in the dummy and not deal with the problem than ride out the storm