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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

Do weight loss shows help us lose weight?

2 Feb

I love watching weight loss shows. I’m so torn between The Biggest Loser on Channel Ten and Excess Baggage on Channel Nine that I can’t decide which to watch and which to record. I have decided to watch Excess Baggage because The Biggest Loser is available online. As long as I get my daily fix of both shows I’m happy. I’m mostly happy I’m not on either of these shows. I’m not someone who responds to pressure well. I have a strong aversion to pressure, orders, deadline and stress in general, especially when it comes to something as personal as my weight.

I will never have a personal trainer or a dietician. I love reading interviews and articles about diet and exercise and being in control of my own journey. I am in charge of me. So what makes someone go on one of these shows? There are people who thrive under environments of constant pressure and direction. These people have personal trainers and probably cope with stress better than the rest of us. My sister loves having a personal trainer. Her personal trainer is crucial to her health and a close friend. When she describes her sessions with her trainer it sounds like some kind of hell to me. Someone yelling at me to do one more push up or to eat less? Get lost!

Weight loss shows are like research for me. I like to see what they eat and how they exercise but in general I think they are way to harsh and stressful. I wonder how these poor people feel when they leave the show. I wonder if they can continue their journey to health without all the direction and monitoring. I want to hug them all and I pray they take back control of their lives.

Sitting down on the couch watching these shows doesn’t actually burn calories but it can give you some pointers you can implement into your own life. What these shows do for me is they make me appreciate my relatively good health and reasonable weight. I have days like most women when I feel fat and disgusting, but I’m not. I’m 160 centimetres tall and I weigh under 60 kilos. I should be happy with that and stop trying to be thinner, prettier, more toned. Because when does it end? The truth is that it never does. Happiness isn’t about what you weigh, it’s about accepting yourself for who you are. If you want to make changes go ahead, but don’t wait to appreciate yourself until you get there. Losing five kilos isn’t going to make me feel happier, more successful. It’s not going to give my kids confidence, earn money for my family, find a publisher for my book or achieve any of my life goals. I can walk, talk, breath and dream. Health is important when it comes to these things but weight isn’t for me.

Funnily enough, My Kitchen Rules does help me maintain my current weight. Also online so I can watch episodes when I have time, My Kitchen Rules and similar food shows teach me to appreciate the gift of food. Food is cooked with such care and creativity. Plates are made to look so pretty. The portions are always so small and the finest ingredients are used. Food is treasured. Food is treated and eaten with respect. If we all cooked and ate like this, savouring every bite, we’d find it much easier to lose or maintain weight. How many times have you heard we should slow down when eating, chew our food, savour it, taste it and stop eating when full. Love your food and it will love you back. The fifth Tim Tam never tastes as good as the first, right?

I’m writing this blog late at night watching Excess Baggage which I taped on my Foxtel IQ. I plan to catch up on The Biggest Loser and My Kitchen Rules online. Hopefully the sum of all these amazing shows is relief that my weight is reasonable, happiness at the fact that I’m not and never will be a contestant on a weight loss show and an appreciation for the amazing food we enjoy in Australia.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Is it Deborah Hutton’s fault I feel fat?

4 Jan

I buy Women’s Weekly religiously. I am so excited when I see the latest edition on the shelf and I sometimes buy three…one for me, one for my sister and one for my mum. As a woman I appreciate that it gives me the perfect blend of food, clothes, body and news issues to keep me happy. I often clear my afternoon so I can read it from front to back at least once and then I dip in and out over the following weeks until the next edition arrives.

When I saw Deborah Hutton on the cover I was so excited to go home and read the article. As a woman of reasonable intelligence I am aware of the fact that most magazine pictures are retouched in some way, some more than others. I am also aware of makeup, lighting, hairspray and spray tans. I also knew that there was no way Deborah Hutton would ever let anyone re-touch her too much because she has always struck me as a down-to-earth Aussie woman who is not only beautiful but is aware of the many issues surrounding woman and their self-worth. Because she is a woman and no matter how beautiful or accomplished, every woman has their issues.

So why all the drama? Deborah Hutton is beautiful, but why does that make women feel badly about themselves. Even more disturbing is the notion that Deborah Hutton has to look bad or flawed for women to feel good about themselves, as though rejoicing in Deborah’s imperfections will help them to embrace their imperfections. So to feel good about themselves, they have to feed off what they see as wrong and ugly about others. This is such an uncomfortable reflection on women. Why can’t we celebrate each other’s beauty, health and achievements? Why do we feel better when we read about failure and flaws? Is it because they makes us feel normal or is it because our own self-worth is measured against others and not just celebrities?

This certainly explains why many magazines sell so well. Kim’s marriage failed…I feel better that mine is a disaster, Christina is fat…I feel better about my weight, Nicole Kidman’s latest movie didn’t go very well…my career failures are more acceptable to me too. And it doesn’t end there. As women we are constantly sizing each other up. Is she a better mother than me? Is she thinner than me? Is she younger than me? Is she more successful than me?

Not all women are like this but many are. Those of us who are not don’t measure our self-worth against others but instead try to base it on our own internal reflections about ourselves. I am the best mother I can be, I look as good as I can manage, my weight is the best I can get it and I may never look like Deborah Hutton but boy am I going to enjoy reading all about her while I relax with coffee for thirty minutes this afternoon while my children nap.

As women, I find that we also often feel like are alone with our issues and struggles. We see someone enjoying their children and assume they never get cross or have a bad mummy day. We see a pretty girl and assume that she feels as pretty as she looks. We work with a confident colleague and assume that she never doubts herself. This is simply not the case. We all have moments, days and weeks when we feel just as badly as the next person. Take comfort in the fact that everyone struggles from time-to-time meaning we are surrounded by groups of women who understand how hard it can be to be a woman.

We are all doing our best and if not, we can always do better tomorrow. Deborah Hutton is a beautiful, successful Australian woman with a great career, no kids and fab hair. I accept her for who she is and who she is doesn’t influence how I feel about myself.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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