Pacifying thoughts

The topic of dummies, or pacifiers, is a strangely heated one among parents. I recently had a conversation with a friend who claims to be from an ‘anti-dummy family.’ After thinking about this concept for a while, I have to say, I’m a little bit stumped.

I think most people agree that after a certain age, dummies are detrimental to a child. Teeth, speech and the normal development of a babies mouth, all need the ability to move freely without the hindrance of what past the age of a year basically becomes a plastic stopper. I see so many parents misusing this object, using it to effectively keep their kids quiet when they are too busy to give full attention, or avoid working out what is actually bothering the child.

It might come as a surprise therefore, that despite that strong view, I am a huge fan of pacifiers. And I don’t really understand why in young children anyone isn’t. In all baby books that I’ve read (which is a few- 9 months of pregnancy is a long time folks) they talk about the babies innate sucking reflex which we are all born with. For some babies, it isn’t very strong, and is fulfilled by nursing or drinking bottles. For others, they quickly find their thumbs or hands, or a favoured toy, and the need is satisfied with those. Some babies however, have such a strong instinct to suck, and gain comfort through sucking, that they want something all day long.

My son was born with a mighty sucking reflex, and after 4 weeks of being a human dummy, I had had enough. Society had made me into one of I’m sure many “anti-dummy people” who actually don’t know much about it at all. I had heard that it would interfere with feeding, (not that it was going so brilliantly anyway) and that it damaged teeth and speech and made your baby feel unwanted. I knew with the certainty often felt by people who actually dont know anything, that if I gave him a pacifier, I would spend months and possibly years bribing him away from it, and teaching him to sleep again. So whatever current hell I was in, what was the point?

But at 6 weeks, when I realised that our baby was spending 20 hours of the day either feeding from me or with one of his parents pinky fingers on the roof of his mouth, I took a trip to the local supermarket and faced down the literally ridiculous choice of baby soothers available. (By the way, if everyone is so anti-dummy… who is buying all these?)

And then, I got educated. After reading what the ‘experts’ had to say about the pros and cons of using a soother, I gave R a dummy during the day, and tried my best not to let him use it to help him fall asleep (although I did give it to help him resettle in the night). I offered it when I wanted to stretch out the gap between bottles, but never before checking that any other reason for his crying wasn’t satisfied. Lastly, at about 5 and a half months, after 2 nights in a row where he needed it to fall asleep, I Took It Away. At six months, he remembered for a few days, and then forgot that it ever existed.

And here is what really confuses me. I hear so many parents saying that they either cant give a dummy or cant lose a dummy because they “cant take it away” from their child. But it’s a baby! You’re the parent! All they know is what you do. If you are really doing it for your kids best interest, surely you can choose a time and stick to it. Yes, we had a hard couple of days while he adjusted to not having it, and learned new ways of setting himself, but by six months, a baby no longer has a sucking reflex. So they might love it, want it, cry without it, but they simply dont need it.

A child of two or three is a whole different ball game. Not only is it by now doing more damage to your toddler than the good it was doing to your newborn, but it must be near on impossible to take away. Toddlers, unlike babies, have opinions and great memories, and I would imagine can drive you mad for weeks or months demanding you return what is rightfully theirs.

My point I suppose, is that once your feeding is established after a month, and before your kid is old enough to get stubborn between 9m to a year, surely a pacifier is simply just whats on the tin; something to help comfort and calm your baby if they need it. While I used to be firmly swayed by their bad rep, I’m now happily in the “where’s the harm?” camp.

These are all only my thoughts, and what worked for us, so please don’t take anything personally as I know I’ve chosen a controversial topic. As a mother who started off ‘anti-dummy’ I just thought I might provide a happy compromise for those parents who are currently walking around the house rocking a baby with their pinkies indisposed.

R.. son of a preacher

Today I threw away the majority of my son’s bottles and teats. I have officially moved him over to a cup for all drinks, and although I’m a bit sad about waving goodbye to one of the very last signs of babyhood, I’m very proud of my growing up boy.

But having done this, I’m feeling quite judgemental towards mums who let their babies have their bottles (and other habits) well into toddlerdom, and beyond. I genuinely dont get it.

Well, maybe that makes it sound like I’m more of a mumzilla than I actually am. Of course I get it. It’s about a few things. The main one, is missing the boat. A newborn baby with a dummy, absolutely fine. Babies have sucking reflexes, they need the comfort, they cant be feeding all day long, and many babies would scream all day without one, and become little angels with. I’m not sure it takes a genius to realise that the age where it starts coming with warning signs (careful about their teeth, careful about their speech, careful about their eating habits) is the time to take it away. Generally this is about 6 months. But if you miss this time slot, and let them keep it until they develop something resembling a memory, disaster ensues. Your 6 month old will forget there is such thing as a dummy within 2 days. 3 tops. My 5 month old forgot it within 36 hours. Your 10/11 month old? Not so much. You’ve missed your chance. Sure, you can take it away, and you really should. You’ll shake your head at fellow mums when you give it back to your crying child, you’l say encouraging sentences like “oh I really must wean him off that dummy,” but when it comes down to doing it, it’s really hard. The light at the end of the tunnel is that no one gets married with a dummy in their mouth. True. Normally when you wait until they are old enough to reason with, you can find a way to trick your 2/3 year old into parting with it. And thats why a lot of mums just wait.

So when you find yourself in this ‘inbetween’ stage, I can understand why you feel a bit stuck. But I’m going to lose a few friends here when I say, you really should have done it earlier. Every health visitor/midwife/book/informative pamphlet etc that I read said take away a dummy before 6 months. So I did. Every health visitor/midwife/book/informative pamphlet etc that I read said take away bottles before a year. So I have. I’m not trying to be supermum, I just dont want to make things harder on myself. I trust their years of experience to tell me that its not good for my toddler to have these things, and it will be loads easier for me if i get rid of them before a certain point. And it is. I dont deserve the praise I get for ridding him of these habits… shh.. it was really easy.

I guess I always decided since he was born, that I’m in charge. He doesnt get anything just because he is crying, and he isnt allowed to do anything that is potentially dangerous for him, however much he wants to. That’s how it goes. I want him to be capable of doing the same thing for his kids some day, (with a mouth that speaks with perfect speech and straight teeth.)

My preachy advice to other mums? Just do it. Take it away, dont look back, deal with the couple of days of crying and difficult behaviour, and thank me later.