How WE kicked the dummy habit

I remember when I was pregnant the discussion of dummies came up. I hadn’t given them much thought until this point but when I did think about them I decided I wasn’t a fan. I wouldn’t be giving them to my babies.

My issue with dummies/pacifiers was entirely based on prejudice and aesthetics. I thought (and still do think) that they look horrible. I had absolutely no real knowledge of what possible benefits they could offer. I was also blissfully unaware of the difficulties that could arise with an unsettled baby.

Our first born was struggling, we were all distressed. When she was diagnosed with reflux at only 6 weeks old it was a relief to know that there was a reason for her screaming and turning blue after feeds. They prescribed medication (which didn’t work as she threw it all up) and I was surprised (AND A LITTLE HORRIFIED) to hear both the paediatrician and GP recommend the use of a dummy to help soothe her.

I started to do some research and chatted to other mums who were ‘DUMMY USERS’.

I learnt the following positives regarding using dummies:

  • They can reduce the risk of SIDS in young babies (www.sidsandkids.org)
  • They can help comfort babies who suffer with reflux
  • Sucking has a soothing effect on babies and can help calm and settle them therefore aiding sleep.

Unfortunately there are lots more disadvantages to using dummies such as:

  • Creating a dependency which can be hard to break
  • Affecting speech
  • Increased risk of middle ear infections
  • They can fall out which increases night waking

It seemed that the disadvantages were issues further down the line, the benefits of using dummies early on were significant. I just needed to get over my issue of not liking the look of them and make a plan for use.

The plan:

  • We would use the dummy for the first few months of her life
  • Once she was asleep we would remove it so she didn’t become too dependent on it
  • We would only allow it to be used after a feed and before sleep

All hail to THE DUMMY!

It was amazing. She loved it. It clearly helped comfort and soothe her with the painful acid producing reflux. By 10 weeks old we were able to put her in the bassinet, wide awake with the dummy and she would go off to sleep. BLISS – WE LOVED IT TOO.

What happened:

  • We increasingly forgot to remove the dummy once she had fallen asleep
  • We increasingly used the dummy throughout the day whenever she was distressed or (I’m ashamed to admit – noisy)
  • We only really worried about taking it out when she was having a photo taken
  • We became as dependent on the dummy as she did, fearful of leaving the house without being armed with several spares in case of loss or meltdown
  • 2 years and 8 months on she/ we were still using it

Our love affair with the dummy wasn’t all plain sailing. It became apparent that she was waking up frequently throughout the night because the dummy had fallen out of her mouth. For a few months it was incredibly frustrating, having to continually get out of bed and plug it back in.

As she grew bigger she was able to put the dummy back in her mouth herself. This was music to our ears. Instead of realising that she/ we were becoming increasingly dependent on the dummy, we actively encouraged it. We came up with a plan to help (or so we thought). We bought hundreds of them, we even got some that glowed in the dark. When we put her to bed, we filled her cot with dummies. No matter what happened in the night, a dummy would not be out of her reach.

UREKA!

At 9 months old, she slept through for the first time. When I say slept through she went from 7pm until 6.20am. Since we have had our second child who hates going to or staying asleep, I now realise how lucky we were with our first. It may be just a coincidence but soon after we introduced her to the dummy (by about 10 weeks old) she was a dream at going to bed. 7pm on the dot we could put her in her bassinet or cot, wide awake, with her dummy and she would get herself off to sleep. 2 years and 8 months on this was still the case.

Our second child uses the dummy half-heartedly. She doesn’t seem to have the same love for it as our first, in spite of all of our best efforts to encourage addiction.

So, for 2 years and 8 months the dummy has been a big part of all our lives. For the first year and a half we did not leave the house without it (and a few spares).The dummy was to us what cigarettes are to smokers, what alcohol is to alcoholics and what wine and chocolate are to me – something we thought we could not live without.

As time slipped by and she was getting older the negatives I’d read about dummies such as them affecting speech and pushing teeth out of alignment etc. started playing on my mind.

We managed to get to a point where she agreed to leave the dummy behind when we left the house. This was a huge step for us. On leaving the house we would list the things we needed to do or take with us such as keys, change bag, shoes, brush teeth and then make a point of saying,

‘’We don’t need teddy or dum dum if we are going out”.

For some reason she was ok with that. She would throw them down on the floor with such purpose every time we left the house and on the odd occasion she/we forgot she would look at us in panic and say,

“Uh-oh, I forgot to leave my dum dums”, quickly passing them to us so we could take them back.

Things changed a little when she was 2 and started 2 days a week at kindy. We confused her by allowing her to leave the house with her dummy and teddy as we thought she needed them for her sleep there. Do not deviate with kids! Once that clear rule was broken she started to try to leave the house more and more often with them.

We could see things were getting out of control with this dummy business. The meltdowns she had when we wouldn’t let her have her dummy were hideous. The worst thing was the realisation that we had done this to her. We had created and encouraged this dependency and now we were denying her of the one thing that gave her so much comfort.

Kindy asked me if I wanted their help to get her off it. I jumped at the chance of their experienced assistance with this matter. It was becoming increasingly clear how addicted she was. They insisted that I stop bringing the dummy to kindy. Apparently she would go all day without, even for her sleep. I couldn’t believe it. I still popped a dummy into her bag, just in case (who’s the addict?). I couldn’t bear the thought of her being upset and them not having it to offer her. She soon realised it was there and started taking it out of the bag herself. Kindy were strict, insisting I leave the dummy at home. So I did as I was told. And apparently she was great.

Unfortunately the minute I picked her up or she walked through the door of our home, the first words she would utter were,

‘’I want my dummy’’

‘’Tell me about your day sweetheart’’

‘’I want my dummy’’

‘’Would you like some ice cream?’’

‘’I want my dummy’’

‘’How about a nice chocolate biscuit?’’

‘’I want my Dummy MUMMY’’

‘’You want a lolly? Or some hot chips? Or some crisps?’’

I WANT MY DUMMY, I WANT MY DUMMY I WANT MY DUMMY NOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!

Much screaming, stamping feet and throwing things. We would always give in, in favour of an easy life. I now know we were 100% compounding the problem and increasing her dependency.

I started reading everything I could about how to get rid of the dummy. Some said go cold turkey – apparently it takes 3 days to break a habit. Some suggested posting them to children in need, some advised cutting them so they weren’t as effective or having a burial ceremony in the garden. The one that I kept hearing success stories about was The Dummy Fairy.

I didn’t really make a plan as such (much to my husband’s frustration who complains I never really discuss it with him when I’m about to make significant changes to our lives). Sometimes, the moment just seems right.

About 5 months ago

I started chatting to her about The Dummy Fairy. Trying to gauge if she ‘got it’. I explained that dummies are for babies. The Dummy Fairy collects dummies for sick babies and if she wanted to give hers for The Dummy Fairy, she might give her a present in return. I found a box and explained that it was up to her but if she wanted to donate them she could put them in there for collection.

She was sold. She went straight to the box and put 3 of her dummies into it. EASY! I was so excited. I was going to buy her the best present ever.

The Dummy Fairy Box
The Dummy Fairy Box

I put the dummies in the bin. Then I got them out again –Just in case. I reiterate….who is the more dependent one?

It’s like when I quit smoking. The amount of times I would say, ‘’that’s it, I’m done’’ and throw a half smoked packet in the bin. Not long after I’d be scrabbling around in the bin desperately pulling them back out.

I bought her some gifts, wrapped them up and put them in the box. I wrote her a nice card from The Dummy Fairy to say thank you to her for donating her dummies to the sick children. I placed them in her cot. Later that day when she discovered them she was delighted with her presents. For 5 minutes. She then asked for her dummy. My heart sank. I explained that she had put them in the bin. Apparently she didn’t get it after all. She asked on repeat for her dummy for about an hour and then the screaming began. Disheartened I reluctantly went to the cupboard and stuck one back in her mouth. PEACE, followed by WINE for me.

It seemed that the Dummy Fairy idea wasn’t going to work after all. Worse I realised I’d really messed it up. Now she wouldn’t believe in it at all as I’d been able to get her dummies back after she had given them up. I’d messed up.

So I admitted defeat and shelved the idea of getting rid of the dummy for the time being. We had so much going on, perhaps it just wasn’t the right time. EXCUSES, EXCUSES! Just like quitting smoking.

When my mum arrived from the UK (she’s never been a dummy lover) she mentioned several times her concerns with my daughter’s addiction. She wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know. So I started talking about the Dummy Fairy again. This time I tried to explain the implications once she gave her dummies up and reiterated that it had to be her choice. I didn’t mind if she didn’t want to do it as it was a very big thing to do.

So one day I put the box out and asked her if she would like to put her dummy in it. She said she didn’t. I said that was fine, no problem at all and I walked away. When I returned to the room I saw her lifting the lid of the box and placing 2 of her dummies and 1 of her sisters inside. I smiled and said “are you sure you want to leave 2? You know you only have 4. It’s your choice sweetie”. She nodded her head and said she was sure.

I wasn’t getting my hopes up, we’d been here before. When she wasn’t looking I took the dummies out of the box and replaced them with 3 gifts. 2 for her and one for her sister. I then wrote her a note from the dummy fairy to say thank you. We went out for the day and I didn’t mention the Dummy Fairy again until just before returning home. I asked her

‘’I wander if the Dummy Fairy has been? Just imagine if she has, how exciting”.

When we got into the house I could see her looking around, disappointed. I carried on with my business knowing that it wouldn’t take long before she spotted the box which I’d placed in her sister’s cot. Sure enough she found it. She squealed delightedly

‘Look, look…The Dummy Fairy’s been Mummy’’

I ran into the bedroom to see her eyes sparkling with excitement as she jumped up and down in joy. Her baby sister joining in the celebration but clearly having no idea why (this would mean her giving up dummies to a degree too as we couldn’t risk her sister seeing her with one).

Not long after opening her presents she asked for her dummy. Disappointed I explained that she had given them to the fairy. Not one to be fooled she replied

‘But I have more mummy, in the freezer’

So feeling a bit gutted I relented and got her a dummy.

A few weeks went by and I chatted more about the dummy fairy and the lovely presents she had received. I asked her if she would like to give any more dummies away so she could get more presents. She didn’t.

About 8 days ago she dropped one down the toilet, never to be seen again. We were down to one.

I recalled a friend of mine telling me how she got her boy to kick the habit by cutting holes in them. So that’s what I did. To her last dummy. I felt like the nastiest person in the world as I snipped the end right off her very last dummy. (Aware we could of course buy more – my crutch). When she tried to suck on it she quickly realised something was wrong, pulled it out and said

‘’Its broken mummy’’

Her little face, I can’t explain how much love and sadness I felt for her in that second.

Then came the tears. She asked for another one but I explained that she didn’t have any more left. I tried to fake sincerity by saying how sorry I was but she could have the broken one. She didn’t want it. Suddenly she stopped crying, looked up at me tears still dripping off her cheeks and said

“I want one of my sisters”

S**t! Thinking quickly I said she’d given them all to the dummy fairly already (poor baby was now going to have to go cold turkey too….hadn’t really thought this through).

I was able to distract her and ran into the bedroom to grab the Frozen Elsa sunglasses and watch I’d bought for her a couple of days ago. I quickly wrapped them up and wrote another note (not quite so fancy this time – on a ‘post-it’ note)

Post-it note from The Dummy Fairy (all that I could find at that moment)
Post-it note from The Dummy Fairy (all that I could find at that moment)

Later that day she was ecstatic with her gifts. She explained to anyone who would listen what had happened and how she had come to be given these presents. Inside I was freaking out. This was it. We were going ‘cold dummy turkey’. I hadn’t formulated a plan as such, it had kind of just evolved. But I knew it was now or never. We needed to seize the moment and deal with it.

So I briefed my husband and mum and said that whilst the baby could still have the dummy for sleeping under no circumstances should our eldest see it. It was going to be tough, we did not know what was ahead if us. But we must be united, firm and consistent.

We are now 8 days on and I can honestly say it has been so much easier than I ever could have imagined. The first few days she struggled to get off to sleep so missed a couple of day sleeps and had a few later nights, needing us to help her. But that’s to be expected. For nearly 3 years the dummy had been her comforter. She asks for the dummy less and less and whenever she does we remind her what happened and that we don’t have any more dummies. Yesterday she went the entire day without asking for one and went to bed without a fight.

I think it was our fear of getting rid of the dummy that made quitting much harder. She’s doing incredibly well, all things considered. I still thank the dummy immensely for helping us in those early days. It soothed her reflux, helped her sleep and consequently helped us have a happier baby. I’ve gone from being a dummy hater to a lover to a hater to being ‘at one’ with them again.

Dummies have definitely had a place in our lives and I’m very grateful for the good things they did for us. Unfortunately like any addiction, we allowed dummy fever to take hold of all of us and our dependency lasted much longer than we had planned.

Cards and gifts from The Dummy Fairy
Cards and gifts from The Dummy Fairy

For anyone interested in trying to get rid of the dummy using my method I’ve summarised what I did in 7 steps:

  1. Plant the seed. Talk about The Dummy Fairy for a few months. Explain the consequences of giving up the dummy clearly (i.e. it’s forever).Re-iterate it’s their choice, no pressure to do it. Be patient, it can take a few weeks/months.
  2. Get a box and leave it out somewhere easy for them to access. Explain that if they would like to receive a present from The Dummy Fairy they will need to place the dummy/dummies in it. I chose to let her do it at her own pace so not all of them went in at once.
  3. When they decide they are ready to give one or all of the dummies up make it exciting for them by asking what present they might like and then if they think The Dummy Fairy has been. Wrap up the presents and place them in the box with a note or card from The Dummy Fairy to make it as real as possible.
  4. If they know how many dummies they have wait until they have offered them all up to The Dummy Fairy (or lost them). If you get desperate and want to shimmy things along a bit you can be evil mummy like me and cut holes in them so they no longer work.
  5. If they have a sibling with a dummy I would suggest trying to remove that one too, at least from sight. Get them joining in with giving up their dummies and receiving presents.
  6. Once all the dummies are gone be aware they will continually ask for them. Be consistent in your response and do not falter. Get your partner, kindy, family members on board. Within a few days they will have almost stopped asking.
  7. Be aware that it may be harder for them to fall asleep as they have used the dummy as their comforter for most of their little lives. Be patient, understanding and help them get to sleep by staying with them a bit longer, more cuddles etc. They are grieving for the loss of their comforter. However, try to maintain their sleep routine as much as possible and be firmer as the day’s progress so they don’t become dependent on you to get them to sleep.

It will be so much easier than you ever anticipated, I promise!

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