Now a post about a “normal” baby item that most people do use! While I was pregnant with Tulip and even before, I was sure no baby of mine would ever have a dummy. If someone had given me a dummy as a present I actually would have been quite upset and angry! I figured if she never had a dummy, she’d never know the difference and would be fine. My reason for being against dummies was because of how I’d seen dummies being used in the past by other parents as well as the facts of older children having a dummy. Some parents seemed to stick a dummy in immediately every time the baby was crying and to me this appeared that they weren’t trying to see what the problem was, they were just trying to shut the baby up. I’d once seen a mum give her 10 month old daughter a dummy as a reward when she wasn’t even upset. The mum said “well done, here have your dummy”. She just kept giving it when he baby clearly didn’t need it. I really wanted to know what she thought the point of it was and why she was doing it. I’d seen so many children in the walking and talking stage walking around with a dummy in their mouth trying to talk. Things like this can cause speech issues as the child isn’t able to make the correct mouth shapes for certain sounds with a dummy in their mouth. Again, it didn’t make sense to me why they had a dummy in when they seemed perfectly happy playing. There seemed no purpose to it, they’d become too dependant on it. For all these reasons and more, I never wanted to have dummies for my children.
When Tulip was four weeks old, two professionals (a breastfeeding expert and a health visitor) asked if she had a soother (a much nicer word than dummy!) and suggested it might be a good thing to try as they pointed out “some babies just like to suck”, especially breastfed babies. I had got to the “I’ll try anything” point that most parents get to at some point (problem multiple times) when they have a baby. So I reluctantly sent my husband out to buy some dummies. At first I said I only wanted her to have it at bedtime. I also didn’t want any of our friends and family to know we had got Tulip a dummy and I certainly didn’t want there to be any photographic evidence of it! Why did I feel this shame? Why did I feel I’d failed as a parent for giving a dummy to my tiny baby who was so confused in this new world? I really struggled with my decision to give her a dummy and felt so guilty. I thought as a cloth nappy using, breastfeeding, babywearing mum, I shouldn’t have a dummy for my daughter (for some reason I thought it went against all my other parenting choices). It really seemed to help her. It soothed her well.
After a week or two of having the dummy at night, Tulip was going through a very fussy period where there was a lot of crying! We eventually gave in to the dummy and (again very reluctantly) gave it to her during the day. We soon found that it was sometimes the only thing that would calm her down. Sometimes she literally just wanted to suck on something. She hadn’t quite got the hang of sucking her thumb or fingers. Every time she’d get part of her little hand in her mouth she wouldn’t be able to keep it in and it would fall out, frustrating her. I had always said I’d prefer for her to suck her thumb. This was because she could control when she wanted it, putting it in and out of her mouth when she felt she needed it or didn’t. Also when she got older, I figured she’d be much more likely to take her thumb out of her mouth to speak or play.
The first time I gave Tulip the dummy in public (at a baby group) I felt like I’d be judged. I don’t know why as quite a large number of parents give their baby a dummy without even thinking twice about it. They probably just saw me giving my daughter a dummy as a very normal thing to do. I always felt the need to explain why she had a dummy, going into a long speech about how I never wanted her to have it but it was suggested to me by professionals and sometimes it’s the only thing that will calm her and she won’t have it when she’s older! I thought I needed to justify this decision to everyone who saw me give Tulip a dummy. I had different reactions to the dummy. Some people said that of course the dummy was a good thing and it was better than her having her thumb because you can take a dummy away but you can’t take a thumb away! Others clearly felt about dummies the way I did before Tulip was born and would say “don’t worry, she’ll find her thumb soon” and would praise her every time she got her thumb or fingers near her mouth. I actually started to find the latter quite patronising, even though this was my original opinion. They’d sometimes say these things without me even prompting it with my speech about how I never wanted her to have the dummy.
One evening when we were staying with family Tulip was being particularly tearful. My husband and I were trying to calm her. We were walking her around and rocking her and using the dummy. A family member kept offering to walk her around to help us. He even said “I’m really worried you’re putting that in her mouth every time she cries, I’m happy to walk her around”. This really upset me. I had struggled so much with the decision to give her the dummy and now my worries were being vocalised by someone else. My parenting decisions were being questioned and I started questioning myself all over again. My husband eventually made me feel better by saying “how is walking her around any different to giving her the dummy? She’s either going to get used to being walked around every time she cries or want the dummy every time she cries”. Giving her the dummy when she cries is obviously easier for us as parents and better for our sanity! Sometimes as a parent you do need to do the easiest thing, as long as your baby is happy. The dummy also usually calms Tulip down quicker than walking her around which is better for her!
I’d like to briefly go back to the point I made earlier about parents putting dummies in without seeing what’s wrong just to shut the baby up. When Tulip is crying and I’m not quite sure why, I have to admit I sometimes do try the dummy first. If this is what she wanted she will calm down immediately. If something else was the problem, she will let me know. She will spit it back out if she’s hungry or keep fussing if she wants her nappy changed. Sometimes the dummy is just a quick way to help me figure out what Tulip needs.
I have well and truly come to terms with my daughter having a dummy and aim to have her off it by her first birthday, if not sooner. As a health visitor pointed out to me, it helped Tulip and I need to think about what’s best for her and not worry how it makes me feel. I have control over when she has it and I can make sure she isn’t the child walking around with a dummy in her mouth.
So if you’re like I was about dummies before Tulip was born, don’t be so quick to judge next time you see a parent put a dummy in their screaming baby’s mouth.