The dummy. Whether you are supportive of children using them or not, it is proven by their global popularity that many children like using them. Before I was pregnant with Gabriel, I have to admit that I wasn’t hugely keen on seeing a child who looked over the age of one, with a dummy shoved in their mouth. I’d thought (and maybe correctly so) that it looked just a bit.. wrong. After all, dummies are for mimicking a nipple, to soothe a baby into sleep or for comfort, they aren’t a fashion accessory or toy for a toddler. Blinged up, comedy slogan or moustache-type dummies just seemed to me to be unnecessary and would perhaps result in delayed speech too. I wondered, how COULD a toddler talk if there’s a huge piece of plastic getting in the way?
Of course, once I had children of my own, as it does with most child-related opinions my mind changed. (although NOT with the bling..) Both Gabriel and Willow were given and have used dummies, they helped them self-soothe in the night or during naps and this meant that I was used less, well as a dummy. I breastfed both my children and it became quickly apparent that sometimes babies just need a gentle suckle. Meaning Mummy on occasion got a rest, a dummy sometimes took that role.
The question is, when does the dummy need to be taken away? I’ve noticed from family, friends, social media and talking to other parents that using a dummy seems to become ‘socially unacceptable’ from the age of around 12-18 months. Is this because Tommee Tippee print on their dummies the final age they are suitable for? Is it because the dentist, nursery and our peers are telling us ‘a dummy is bad for toddlers teeth’ or is it simply, that we all believe that a toddler doesn’t really *need* a dummy.
Gabriel was around eighteen months when I became aware of the ‘dummy brigade’ comments made out and about, nursery staff talking to him about how he is now a ‘big boy’ and doesn’t need the dummy and of course the dummies we owned, suddenly seemed too small for his all new toddler-sized mouth. Dave and I decided that perhaps he *was* too old for a dummy, but we could see he liked to use it. So we made a decision that until he was two years old, as long as it wasn’t affecting his teeth or talking that he was to use the dummy at night-time only. This seemed a common decision amongst our friends, and it was one we were happy with.
Gabriel’s second Birthday came and went…then arrived potty-training. He sailed through this area without a hiccup and without me noticing, our little toddler had become, indeed a ‘big boy’. But there was still an issue. There was a dummy in his bed, how much he used it, we were not sure, but what we did know was that he was precious about it. I fully admit now, that actually I was nervous. Gabriel was heading for three years old and still using a dummy a night. He was capable of conversation, understanding and most worryingly, holding attachment.
I’d read about dummy fairies, tough love, bribery with gifts or perhaps just ignoring the issue until
the child decides to not want it anymore on forums, blogs and social media. But nothing really sat right with me, dummies would still be around the house as Willow uses them, it seemed unfair to take Gabriel’s away without explanation or discussion, so we decided to talk to him.
The first couple of conversations didn’t go exactly to plan. Gabriel just wasn’t interested in talking about giving his dummy up; he wasn’t ready. I left the issue a few months and tried again. This time, I focused on how grown up he is, and we listed together his heroes, who he likes and then, whether or not they had dummies. I watched carefully as Gabriel processed his thoughts. ‘I don’t need a dummy!’ He declared. Brilliant! It had worked. Or had it? I have enough experience as a Mummy to know the first rule of parenting club- Do NOT get cocky.
So that night we didn’t offer Gabriel a dummy and after around five minutes of sulking over not having it, he settled in bed and went to sleep. Gabriel hasn’t asked for his dummy since. No fairies, bribery or reward charts necessary. Just simple communication.
Sometimes as parents it’s easy to get bogged down in rituals, peer pressure and being told what we should be doing. Threats of ‘they may use their thumb’ or, ‘..it will be hell for you to take that away if they get too old’ etc just aren’t important. YOU know your child, and therefore, you know best. If you want to give your child a dummy, do it, but please don’t stress too much about having to take it away. After all, you don’t see many adults wandering the streets with a dummy in their mouths, and unless there are thousands of us at home hiding their use as adults, it seems that eventually we all decide we are too grown up for a dummy.