Mum shares the toddler habit that’s harder to kick than sucking a dummy

Posted in Learning and Development.

You might not want your baby to have a dummy, but at least, unlike fingers, you can eventually throw it away.

When my first daughter was born, she was very unsettled and not a particularly good sleeper. And if she wasn’t asleep, which was most of the time, she was crying. Probably because she was so tired from not sleeping. So, we tried a dummy. And like magic, the crying stopped, and my daughter slept like a dream. It was a miracle. Until one week later, she spat it out. “Just try again,” my early childhood nurse suggested. Which I did and thankfully, she took the dummy back.

At the time, I didn’t care what people said, I was just so happy to soothe my baby. However, there was definitely a feeling among mothers that dummies should be avoided at all costs. Some were even openly critical of my decision to use one.

Considerations for dummy use

The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital recommends that you do not introduce a dummy to “a healthy, term breastfed baby until breastfeeding is well established,” which is around four to six weeks of age.

The hospital sets out a list of outcomes to consider when introducing a dummy to your newborn, such as missing your baby’s early feeding cues, which could delay your milk coming in. The hospital also suggests that the dummy may decrease the number of times you feed your baby, or the amount of breast milk you make. It may even lead to your baby having slow weight gain.

I didn’t consider any such things when I was desperately trying to get my baby to sleep. Neither of us had any ill effects, and I successfully breastfed her for 12 months. However, she kept sucking her dummy regularly until she was three and a half years old. I tried to limit her use, but she’d always find ways around it. To the point where we would go to the park and she would pull one out of her handbag and pop it in her mouth. We tried every technique under the sun, even suggesting we leave it out for the Easter Bunny. She almost went through with it but balked at the last minute, and we had to quickly put it away. I was starting to worry that she would never be able to stop.

Big sister behaviour

I needn’t have worried quite so much. Eventually, she noticed that other kids at daycare didn’t have dummies. Then her little sister was born, and she suddenly felt more grown up. Whatever happened, she was finally ready to give up the dummy. She popped it in the bin and never looked back. I couldn’t believe it. I wish I’d known how easy the situation would resolve itself. It might have saved me a great deal of anxiety.

“The dummy posed no problems for me at all”

In hindsight, the dummy posed no problems for me at all, something I only realised when my second child promptly rejected the dummy and started sucking her fingers instead. And you can’t just pop fingers in the bin or give them to the Easter Bunny.

The moment I saw my daughter self-soothing, I was initially thrilled. This will help her sleep, I thought gleefully. Which it did, but now she’s seven years old, and it still helps her sleep. Not only that, she has always sucked her fingers bent backwards, putting enormous pressure on her teeth. Whenever she smiles, I just see the orthodontal bills we will, no doubt, be faced with.

The journey ahead

So now we’re in the thick of it, trying to encourage her to stop sucking her fingers and I sincerely wish she’d taken to the dummy in the first place. She shows no interest in stopping, but she does only do it at night time, which is a start. Plus, she’s embarrassed to be seen doing it by anyone other than family members. And after going through a similar experience with my first daughter, I know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It will happen. But as it’s probably much harder to accidentally ‘lose’ two fingers than it is a dummy, I’m not sure when that will be …


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