A big thing happened in our house this week – the 3 year old twins voluntarily gave up their dummies. Yes I know – they’re 3 and clearly too old to have a dummy anyway; but they did still have one, because any sort of big change (moving from a cot to a bed, or swapping the sleeping bags for duvets) is particularly daunting with multiples and very easy to put off for as long as possible. If it goes badly, it usually goes very badly.
But equally, I must admit, I wasn’t in a huge rush for them to say goodbye to their little bit of night-time comfort. You see, we always had one strict rule to be adhered to re. the dummy, which was that it was for sleep time only. So once they grew out of daytime naps, the dummy was only around at night. And if it’s only around at night, it isn’t really much of a problem is it? We were lucky in that we didn’t really go through the losing-dummy-at-night issue too much. Dummies mainly gave us peaceful evenings and children who would go to sleep happily. And why would you want to risk changing that?
But dummies are controversial aren’t they? I’m sure there will be a fair few people reading this who have formed an opinion of me just because I gave my children a dummy to suck on.
For such little things, they are pretty divisive.
Parents seem to fit into one of four categories when it comes to dummy usage:
- The firmly Anti-Dummy Parents (ADP). These are the parents who would not consider resorting to a dummy whatever the circumstances. Settling baby with the breast is ok. Settling baby with a dummy is not.
- The previously anti-dummy, but pro-dummy since having their own babies gang (I have a particular fondness for this group).
- The indifferent folk who don’t have strong feelings either way.
- The pro-dummy brigade, who wouldn’t even consider not giving baby a dummy.
I fell into the third category and didn’t really have strong feelings on dummies either way when I was pregnant the first time around.
I can, however, understand the feelings on all sides. On the one hand, I can see why some parents instinctively give their baby a dummy to stop the crying – no-one likes listening to a crying baby do they? Particularly when it’s your own crying baby. And until you have your own, it’s impossible to know how you will cope with the crying (and all the other challenges).
But for the ADP, dummies aren’t at all aesthetically pleasing and this definitely counts against them. There is a stigma around putting what is effectively a stopper in your baby’s mouth when s/he is trying to express him/herself (even if that is through crying) – to the ADP, this just seems wrong. And then there’s the thought of the preschooler who is hooked on his or her dummy. All of this combined outweighs any advantages that a dummy might bring in the early days.
But the thing is, dummies do bring advantages don’t they?
When my first baby arrived, it didn’t occur to me to give him a dummy because for the first few weeks all he did was feed and then happily fall asleep. It wasn’t until he was 8 weeks old – when suddenly he was very alert, refusing to go to sleep during the day and consequently very grumpy (constantly) – that I decided to see if he’d take a dummy. He was clearly using me as a dummy, so I didn’t really see the problem with giving him a real one.
It changed my life.
Suddenly my baby would go happily off to sleep – in the day and at night.
I always felt a bit embarrased admitting to any ADPs that my children had dummies. I don’t know why really – they were happy, secure, and had what they needed to go to sleep peacefully. If they liked to suck on a dummy before they dropped off, did it really matter? We choose our battles, and I chose not to have a battle over going to sleep.
The eldest boy said goodbye to his at around 2 and 9 months – it was much less traumatic than I was expecting. But with the 3 year olds we put it off, time and time again. We talked about doing it, we prepped them for the arrival of the Dummy Fairy, but we just kept finding excuses.
I was dreading it.
And then last Sunday, Twin 2 announced that he didn’t want his dummy any more – just like that, he was ready for the Dummy Fairy’s visit. And Twin 1 decided he would do the same. This wasn’t really how it was meant to happen – it was meant to happen on a Friday night so that if it did go horribly wrong, at least we’d have the weekend to recover. It wasn’t supposed to happen on a Sunday night. But we went with it. The dummies were deposited into a Christmas stocking, and there was an emotional ‘we’re big boys and we don’t need a dummy any more’ speech. It felt like the end of an era.
Twin 1 asked what the Dummy Fairy would look like and whether she would be a pig (yes, I was puzzled too).
And then they went to sleep. That was that.
So dummies, we may have left it a bit late to say goodbye, but at least there were no tears when it finally happened. It can be hard to keep things in perspective as parents, and I think dummies are just one of the many things we can worry about unnecessarily. My children do not seem to have been hindered by our decision to let them fall asleep with a dummy; and when they’re 16 I doubt that anyone will be interested in whether or not they had a dummy as babies.
We choose our own paths as parents, and I chose the Limited-Dummy-Use path. I’m glad I did.
So this is a note of appreciation really, to those controversial little things. Thank you, dummies, for the peaceful evenings and the daytime naps. Thank you for the part you played in keeping me sane. I know that many people aren’t fans, but for me you meant less crying, peaceful evenings and more sleep all-round.
You might not look pretty, but you definitely played a significant part in helping me feel rested enough to enjoy being a mum.
And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it.