Dummies and bad advice

19 Feb


I am so sick of ‘experts’ telling mums what they should be doing. Fair enough if it’s a matter of life and death, but “A spat over dummies” in today’s Sunday Telegraph is making me a little cross.

I gave my first child a dummy, after being advised by a midwife that it would help him attach to my breast. He was having trouble. He eventually got the hang of it and probably would have without the dummy but if felt good to give him something that would sooth him. When he was two-and-a-half I told him the dummy fairy was coming to take them for new babies and he said goodbye to them without too much trouble.

After having my first baby a lot of ‘advice’ was discussed talking about how dummies are damaging so I didn’t give one to my second son. He is now a dedicated thumb-sucker. I didn’t give one to my third child either. She too is a thumb sucker. I also blame an incident at my local Target store where I saw a five-year-old girl in a school uniform with a dummy attached to her collar, sucking away. I now realise this is very rare and shouldn’t cause the massive anxiety over dummies that it caused in me.

I am angry with myself for listening to the advice against dummies and for the ‘Target incident’ making it worse. I should have trusted my instincts. I wanted to give them dummies but felt pressured not to. I think babies with dummies are so cute. I don’t think they are damaging. They can cause restlessness at night but that was a price I was willing to pay to have children who were happy and who didn’t suck their thumbs.

Babies love being comforted by parents, teddy bears and dummies and I’m a big fan of doing whatever works for you and your baby. When ‘experts’ give advice on such things I often wonder why they can’t just say, ‘Do what feels right for you and your baby’. This is what I keep telling my sister who has just had her first. Whatever makes you happy and your baby happy and isn’t a health hazard – go for it. Stuff the mummy-guilt.

The list of ‘For’ and ‘Against’ points in the article is pretty funny because it basically makes dummy-using parents sound lazy. Do you want to keep your baby quiet, keep them asleep, stretch out time between feeds and stop thumb sucking? Then shove that dummy in. And then if you’re stupid enough to give your baby a dummy you will be punished by a child who has trouble feeding, can develop an overbite, can have speech problems and will wake all night.

I only have three children and statistically that doesn’t prove much to ‘experts’ but they say plenty to me. My first child had a dummy. He fed really well, never sucked his thumb and was a frequent feeder. He did wake up at night when he lost his dummy but I eventually let him lose it and sooth himself and he only used the dummy to go to sleep initially. My second son with no dummy was a restless sleeper at first and eventually found his thumb which at four years of age he is yet to give up. He is unnaturally attached to his teddy bear (very stinky by the way but he cries when I put it in the washing machine) and I would do anything to get him to stop sucking his thumb. My third child, my little girl, is also a dummy-less thumb sucker.

My sister did the same as me. We had children at a similar time and only gave dummies to our first. She didn’t give one to her second child, a little girl, and she developed a habit of sucking her middle fingers whilst clutching a blanket to get to sleep and her third who was also not given a dummy ended up sucking on a muslin wrap for comfort.

Every time my dad sees my kids sucking their thumbs he gently slaps their hands away from their mouths, telling them they are too big to be sucking their thumbs. Short of tying their hands behind their backs I’m not sure what to do. The thumb fairy can’t come and take their thumbs away. I’m left to hope and pray that they stop the habit before they begin school.

My experience out of the six children I have observed in our family is that they are going to suck on something so it may as well be a dummy. But somechildren are perfectly okay not sucking on anything but once again, it’s what works for you and your baby. You can use a dummy but you don’t have to use it for years. You can use nothing but be ready to stop them from sucking on something else. And you can relax. Have you ever seen a sixteen-year-old with a dummy or sucking their thumb? They will stop eventually. And you can be sure if one of these methods of soothing causes a massive, horrible overbite as we are being warned, there will be plenty of dentists willing to help for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Win, win.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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