Motherhood for dummies

miffy, amelia and dummy

The night before last I was a very bad mum. I gave my 5 week old baby a dummy (soother, pacifier etc.). O-oh.

It was Melbourne Cup Day and in Melbourne that means we get a public holiday (that’s right, a public holiday for a horse race) so Big-P was home and Special-K and Dr Beard came over to visit. Amelia J decided that post 10am she didn’t want to sleep at all and not only did she not want to sleep but she didn’t even want to be horizontal, not even in my arms. Instead it was either peeping over a friendly shoulder so she couuld be part of the action, while being supported and patted on the back or cry cry cry. This went on all day and needless to say we were exhausted by dinner time when my Mum came over to rescue us and cooking us some food (yey Mum!). By bed time (post “soothing” bath, post “soothing” feed) she was still sooking and it looked like we were in for a long, long night. It was then that I looked at Big-P and said “we could try a dummy…”

What’s the problem with using a dummy I hear you ask. Well, in the breastfeeding class I attended just before Amelia J was born the Midwife put the fear in me. She told us in a very foreboding voice that we should avoid using bottles and dummies for the first six weeks as it can mess up breastfeeding. This is the crucial time when the baby is learning how to attach to the breast and if she uses a dummy or a bottle she can get into the habit of attaching and sucking incorrectly. This is what is referred to as “nipple confusion” and nobody wants to suffer from that! So there’s that one problem but there is also the “dummy addiction” which can result in a five year old in funky knee high boots standing beside me at the pharmacy last week choosing the colour of their new dummy from the rack above her. She picked out a cute pink dummy and said to her mum: “Can I have the dummy in the car Mummy?” and the Mummy replied “No, we have to take it home and wash it first.” and the five year old replied “but I can wash it in my mouth!”. A child who is able to argue with such infallible logic is perhaps a tad old to be toting a dummy in public. Mind you, I sucked my thumb until I was thirteen accompanied by a rather revolting old blanky, so really, if my daughter wants to find comfort in a dummy then I am not one to criticise. Lastly there is the issue that she might get used to sleeping with it and in later months will cry hysterically any time she spits it out… which will make for many more disturbed nights potentially for the rest of our lives. Ah well.

So I said to Big-P, “we could try a dummy…” and he gave me a quick and furtive nod, after all, sleep is a precious commodity these days. I dug through my big box of baby paraphernalia and found three little dummies, boiled them for five minutes to sterilise them and then popped one in the open and crying mouth of baby A J and she instantly fell into a deep and delicious five hour sleep. Absolute bliss.

Big P pointed out to me that this is the kind of thing a first time parent worries about and wouldn’t give a second thought to the next time around.

Since then I have used it a couple more times and it really seems to calm her… bad mum = happy baby.

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63 Responses

  1. says:

    Honestly, I can’t believe giving your baby a dummy could be so bad. Don’t listen so much to what other people tell you when something is working fine for the two of you.

  2. My baby is three weeks today and I occassionally use the pacifier when all else has been tried. Babies need to suck, even when they are not hungry. It helps them tune out the rest of the world and calm down. She spits it out in the middle of the night when she is really asleep and doesn’t wake up crying for it. It’s nice to know I wan’t the only one who fretted about this subject too.

  3. my older daughter got the pacifier straight away and loved it (and she was a champion nurser). she eventually needed not one, but TWO pacifiers — a “mouth pa” and a “hand pa”. eventually we stopped buying new ones, but she went to preschool every day with both. eventually the “hand pa” was worn smooth and thin from rubbing and the “mouth pa” hardened, cracked, and shredded. they were completely disgusting. she still didn’t give them up. finally, a bit before her 4th birthday she lost the “mouth pa” and that was that. a new one was no good because it wasn’t all shredded and falling apart — it wasn’t hers. a few sad moments and a couple of nights of difficulty going to bed. now, a year later, she doesn’t even remember that they were her constant companions.
    there were many times that i loathed the sight of her with the awful plastic thing obscuring her smile, but i don’t think i would do it any differently.

    my second daughter was much more easy going and never “needed” the pacifier.

  4. pah to rules! and the equation should in fact go thus: ‘bad’ mum = happy baby = happy mum = happy baby = yay!

  5. Happy baby = Happy mom.I’m sure it will be fine. :]

  6. says:

    pppfft! If it works, it works.

  7. You know my theory. You reach a point where the benefits of having a non-frazzled and non-totally-exhausted mum-and-dadbecome more important than “ideal child-rearing technique”. Don’t worry about it.

  8. i think happy baby = good mum!

  9. at least you haven’t resorted to dipping the dummy in honey and brandy.
    My friend’s mother used to do that to get her to sleep.

  10. says:

    A dummy can be gotten rid of when you feel you are both ready. As you know it is very difficult to break a child/toddler of thumb/finger sucking (you can’t keep a thumb away from a child like you can a dummy). The beautiful AJ will be fine, make your choices and don’t feel guilty – they are yours to make.

  11. says:

    whatever works for you!! you are are great mum so trust your instincts.

  12. says:

    three happy babies, three great kids…all with dummies or thumbs – two with a blankie, one with a special stuffed dog! There is nothing as fabulous as whatever might make a baby feel better – on a plane, in a car or when they are just miserable. knowing that you can give her something that soothes her that well in times of stress is priceless. and you can take it from her when she is older (9months) or buy it from her when she is six!

  13. *cough*
    So, I uh, still have my blankie. I’m almost 26.

    But not to fear! It’s for warmth, really.

    Don’t fret Claire! She’s right around that 6 week mark, right? She’ll do fine, and one day you’ll just make them disappear and I bet she won’t know the difference. In order to give AJ the best you and Big-P have to be rested!!

    Thanks for sharing your first time mommy stories with the world! It’s a unique insight for a gal like me who’s still childless!

  14. me too. still have my blankie. used it till i was about ummm 18.
    and like lara said. if it works it works. deal with whatever comes later [if anything does come at all]

    your a super fine mummy. there are just too many rules/guidelines in the baby world.

  15. Ah, you did the right thing, don’t worry about it.

  16. So much thought and worry and even a blog entry? Definitely a great mum. All the very best to all of you.

  17. You are definitely NOT a bad mom.
    You’ve helped AJ to find ways to soothe herself. She is an autonomous being, who moves in the world her own mysterious way. No one can predict what using the dummy will lead to in the future, but you don’t see an adult walking around with one, so don’t worry too much about it.

    Thing is, we all have ideas how things should be, and hear stories, which may be worth considering, but after all is said, do what works for you and AJ.

    There is good and bad to everything, but you have to decide what you can live with!

    Ps…my son (now 13) spit it out one day when he was 3 and never asked for it again. He’s never been as calm since. *:D

  18. this is the beginning of AJ finding her own- aside from her Mommy and Daddy… it is a first step of her letting go of you… finding her own… comforting herself. She’s growing up! Next thing she’ll want the keys to your car! 🙂 Be happy, Mum! She is!

  19. As soon as milk comes out of the dummy, you have something to worry about until then, she’ll know the difference. Nipple confusion happens between breast and bottle….don’t worry about the dummy (or binky as we called it).
    Relax, you’re doing fine.

  20. says:

    The little girl I nanny for has a special (but particularly grotty) blankie that she’s had ever since she was born (it was originally her bed sheet).It makes her happy when she’s cranky, and calms her in new siuations. I predict that by the time she starts school it will be tucked safely into her school bag to help her along.

  21. says:

    Dummy is an interesting word for those things. My mom always calls them a “binkie”

  22. says:

    happy baby = happy mum
    go forward with whatever works.

    my father once said that as soon as you work out the cause of the problem another one comes to take it’s place. and he was so right. babies are complicated little people, and if she went straight off to sleep then you did the right thing.

    loving your site at the moment, more than ever. wish i could be there for a quick huggle of the bairn.

    keep up the good mothering (and fathering big p)

  23. says:

    I say yipee!! and hurray for you that your wee one will take a pacie. When I see mommys in the market whose babies are blissfully sucking on a nook I sigh and think How amazingly *lucky* these mums are. I have nursed all 3 of my little ones and only 1 would take a nook and she had none of the confusion that is told like mythology and I truly think they are little gifts from the goddess. Some technology is lovely – else all our babies would be dressed in twigs and sleeping in leaf hamicks. True LaLeche beliefs are what helps the mommy helps the baby – peacefilled mommy = peace filled family.I say ~hurray~ again and buy a dozen in all different matching colors to cordinate with your little peas outfits 🙂

  24. heh. i sucked my thumb until age 12. my “blankie” was a calico dress from an old raggedy ann doll. i finally quit when my parents bribed me by saying i could get my ears pierced if i stopped it.

  25. I was wondering if you’d mention the NaNo shirts. No speed-writing for new mothers, I suppose, but I’ve got about 12000 words of, well, I’ll just say I’ve got 12000 words, and that most of them connect.

  26. I know what you mean – my wee one was terribly colicky for her first few months. I too went through six shades of guilt before buying her a dummy, but it really did the trick. It helped her get to sleep, calmed her down and somehow seemed to soothe her cranky tum. Four months later, when she found her thumb, she lost all interest in the dummy and I was able to chuck it out.

  27. Well, not having any children myself, I wouldn’t really know what to advise with the dummy situation. However, most of my friends with children have used one at some stage or other and the children don’t appear affected by it in the long run. Honestly, though, if you think that it’s okay, then that’s the only thing that matters. I’m glad you got some (much needed by the sound of it) rest! Don’t get yourself down about it. You sound like you’re doing a great job with Amelia!

  28. I sucked my thumb til I was 15… and my boyfriend still does (which annoys me to no end). I definitely agree that a binkie (that’s what we call ’em!) is much easier to get over… you can take it away!

  29. After rejecting a pacifier, my son sucked his fingers for the whole first year. Then he got a stuffy nose that lasted three weeks, and his choice was either to keep sucking his fingers or breathe through his mouth. He chose breathing, and now seems to have forgotten that he ever sucked his fingers.

  30. says:

    Yep, by the second kid you won’t even be sterilizing that dummy anymore, either! Just a quick wipe and in it goes in the mouth!
    Oh, and I’m with everyone else – happy baby + 5 hours sleep = happy parental units!

  31. Our little one loved it, suffered no confusion and now at 5 months can launch it up to 3 feet. She seldom uses it anymore, in favor of the thumb. Also we call it a binkie here in Seattle, USA.

  32. Hehe… you are kayoote claire

  33. ha! that brandy comment’s cute!! wow- that sure brought back some memories… my grandmom would give the binkie a nice brandy dip to “soothe” our gums from teething.. ha!
    cheers to all the thumb suckers out there! =)

  34. i’m 24 and i still suck my thumb. all the time. in public. i guess i have “nipple confusion” still 🙂

  35. Not to worry! My ex-mother-in-law would dip the dummy in coffee or whisky to get her grandson to sleep.

  36. aahh. i still have my ratty old blankie after 27 (almost 28) years. i’m thinking about retiring him to sit on the shelf…

  37. I sucked my thumb as a kid until I was six, when my Granny promised to buy me a pretty party dress if I would stop. So I did, and she got me the dress. It was pale grey velvet with lace cuffs, and pink satin rosebuds at the collar. Whoo!
    Two years later I outgrew the dress, and the day my Mum took it out of my closet, I went right back to sucking my thumb. Didn’t quit for good til I was thirteen or so.

    I’m a lawyer’s daughter, what can I say?

  38. Happy baby = happy mum (and happy Big P I imagine)

  39. Hi Loobylu 🙂 I have been reading your site almost incessantly for years now, and this is the first time I actually comment (despite the fact that you didn’t used to have the comment function).
    Anyway.. I chose to breastfeed my son, but he was jaundiced and was too lethargic to breastfeed when he was a few days old. We had to bottle-feed him pumped milk. I was petrified of nipple confusion because of the pre-natal classes, but that’s how it had to be. Well, when he got better, I continued to breastfeed him. He only accepted a pacifier when it was bedtime, and would spit it out as soon as we put him in his crib.

    Sleep for you guys is a good thing. Sleep for A J is also a very good thing. My point is: if it works, it’s the right thing to do. Everything else will fix itself. 🙂

  40. says:

    It is so cute that when your page loads loobylu on the left is looking right at amelia…

  41. Your drawings is so cute…

  42. You have ventured into the land of no return!
    Then again, if dummies are so screwed up, we’d all be dead.

  43. says:

    my dads in the process of feeding my 3 month old chocolate – im sure thats not right either

  44. says:

    I think the true test of experienced parents is whether or not they wash the binky/dummy/pacifier after it hits the ground.
    My dad fixed my thumb sucking for me. The funny thing is that he did it with my full permission. He asked me if I wanted to stop. I said yes (7 year olds are so easy) and he put Tabasco sauce on my thumb. I nodded off, thumb went into mouth, and I was bolt awake and drinking from the faucet in a hurry. It took but one application.

    There was a side-effect: I love Tabasco now.

  45. Unidentifiable white fish at a sushi restraunt is probably not fish.I would guess it was Ike (raw squid) which is white with a delicious rubbery texture.
    Yum yum yum!

  46. Lactation consultants tend to underestimate babies’ flexibility in these matters. My kids have had no problems switching between breast, bottle and pacifier.

  47. My baby is a non-stop eater. When he was born, he wouldn’t stop eating. After two days, the nurse said, look, he’s looking to soothe himself by suckling, he doesn’t need the breastmilk so often. Gave him a soother.
    By the time he was able to self-soothe with his thumb, he have up the soother. Then shortly after that, he gave up the thumb.

    Babies are miracles. I think the real thing is to not entirely rely on it — don’t use it to avoid a feeding, et cetera. But when the baby needs it to get calm enough to sleep, they need that sleep as much as you do. Do what works!

  48. i’ve had 4 kids, thumb suckers and pacifier users both. let the id use the pacifier. just be a good mum and wean her off it before she;s 5. 😉
    there are only two other pieces of “advice” i ever got that did me any good – neither of which came from “professionals”: 1. don;t start anything you don;t want to keep doing for the next 5 to 10 years, and 2. sometimes you just have to let the baby cry – if she;s fed, been played with, and clean, and you desperately need sleep, she’ll get used to it. they say kids can never be spoiled or get too much attention. wrong. once a child knows all it takes is crying to get what s/he wants, the parent is doomed. 😉 they’re smart, even as infants. or perhaps it’s especially as infants. hehe

  49. says:

    Well, I am bringing a dummy with me to the hospital when I go into labor – if the breastfeeding comes along nicely, I won’t hesitate much in using it! (The nurses might make me change my mind, though…)

  50. I love your doodles and all, but you should definitely post more real pix of Amelia! 🙂 I love babies. Your baby is a cute one, too. I need pictures, LOL.

  51. The mid-wife obviously has never had a screaming baby to deal with! Thumb is good also! I have many happy thumb sucking memories…try it claire (I mean try it on little Amelia…but you never know, it might calm you down too..hehe)!

  52. I had a dummy till I was two… then one day I just put it in my dad’s briefcase before he went to work and told my mum ‘daddy took it’. I never used it again.
    As long as a child doesn’t use it all day, every day, then I don’t think there is a problem. But seeing five year olds running around with dummies IS a bit much…

  53. Some babies have a natural need to suck more than others. It is soothing to them. When she gets older, you can teach her how to find her thumb.My own mum broke our dummy habit by cutting the tip off in gradual stages with scissors- over a week’s time. By then end of the week, each of her four children, took the little stub out of our mouths and threw it across the room, weaned of our dummy habit.

  54. says:

    It may sound ridiculous but Soy and I tried for months to get our son to TAKE a dummy, but he hated it. We felt so sorry when he was too tired to be comforted and he really needed something. At least AJ gets some comfort.Whatever you do, AJ will form some bad habit which you will have to break later.
    I breast fed my son to sleep for months and months, it made me feel good (it made him feel good!) but I read dire predictions about the dreaded times I would have getting him to ‘sleep through’ when he was older. We broke the habit at about 6 months. AJ will break the dummy habit.

  55. Claire, don’t worry…giving your child a binky (dummy) will NOT hender the breast feeding. I have never heard of such a thing…or witnessed it. I used binkies with both of my kids, and they did just fine. If little Amelia is taking the dummy, and is happy with it, I say go for it! That’s what the dummies are for! 😉

  56. Hey, I sucked a dummy for years, and I turned out perfectly normal…
    My mum always tells me the story of how they got me off dummies. I would always ask/gesticulate for one when they put me to bed. So one night, Dad came home from work with one of those giant novelty dummies (from a joke shop, I guess). When I asked for my dummy, he whipped it out from the behind the door, and presented it to me.

    Apparently, I stared at it in wide-eyed shock for a few seconds, then went straight to bed… and never once used a dummy again!

  57. Oh, and I should probably mention that my mum was and is a midwife herself, and obviously never had any professional objections to my dummy, as a baby! I think she just thought I should be weened off it by the time I was three, or something.

  58. says:

    Sometimes the best mums must be bad. I’m 14 and I have to know: how did you stop sucking your thumb?

  59. You’re all right. Now, Shaft, that’s a bad mother.

  60. says:

    My cousin separated her daughter from a dummy when she was 2 by telling her that Santa Claus took it and she got presents back.
    I think the main point with kids (especially babies) is to keep them happy. They only cry if they need something, and if you keep your baby happy, you’re the best mom.

  61. I agree with everybody: don’t worry about it! I had my pudgy (binky, dummy, plug: amazing the names they have for it.) Just enjoy being a new mum; AJ will turn out grand.

  62. says:

    hope you get a good sleep tonight .

  63. Hey a Moms gotta do what a Moms gotta do. 🙂