05 January 2012

The dummy dilemma

I've been meaning to write this post for a long long time but seem to have never found the time until now! The question of dummies is a vexed and controversial one. Do they help or hinder? Do they cause middle ear infections? Do they help to prevent SIDS? Do they ruin kids' teeth? Are they necessary?

When I was pregnant I decided not to introduce a dummy. I'm not sure why I decided this considering both Daniel and I had been serious dummy addicts as children. We both (strangely) had a special attachment to our dummies that often saw us with multiple dummies at any one time (in the mouth and hands).

Me at about Layla's age with my dummy (note the uber cool '70s vest - gorgeous)
Despite all the warnings about giving a dummy at an early age (breast refusal, nipple confusion, causing milk to digest too quickly) I decided to give one to Layla. She had demonstrated that she was a sucky baby and I decided to substitute a dummy for my little finger so I could achieve some degree of separation when she was a newborn. Initially I rarely used the dummy. It's primary use was to provide comfort in times of distress and an inability to settle. I only increased the availability of the dummy on the advice of a mothercraft nurse who observed the relief it brought to Layla. From that time on, Layla and her dummy have become inseparable.

Many friends have decided to take away the dummy from their babies/toddlers at various stages for various reasons. One of the main ones was due to the night time replacement nightmare. I was somewhat shocked that as a newborn Layla was unable to hang on to the dummy and that I constantly needed to replace it when it fell out. I had recalled stories of friends who cursed the decision to introduce a dummy due to the constant need to replace the plug throughout the night. It was due to this stage that I decided to look for a solution. This was when bunny was born!

Bunny is Layla's comforter. It is a strange object. It is comprised of a bunny's head attached to a soft fabric square. I started placing Bunny with Layla and I when I breastfed her from an early age so that it developed a sensory link to me. Before too long, Bunny was a regular feature at bedtime, providing comfort and a magical settling ability. Due to the dummy dilemma, Bunny had a renovation and became even more special. I sewed plastic press studs to the corners and then clipped two dummies to her. Layla had learned to locate Bunny during the night and was now able to find her dummies for reinsertion no matter the evening hour. Brilliant!
Due to the hour of this posting, Bunny was unavailable to have her picture taken.
This is an artists impression (hardly does her justice!)
Layla and her Bunny are best of friends. They have a very special relationship. Despite this, Bunny stays at home and in Layla's bed to ensure she is always available at sleep time. Bunny has a number of stunt doubles including one that lives in the wardrobe for emergencies (when Bunny #1 is being washed - she gets a lot of loving) and one that lives at Nani's place for when Layla is there when I am at work.

So what about the dummy dilemma. Did I do the right thing? Do I love or hate the plug? Who knows. There are times I love it and times I hate it. All I know is that Layla likes it and it is comforting for her. My parents still recall their concern over my dummy dependency to the point that they were worried I'd be walking down the aisle as a bride with it! Despite these concerns, I gave it up when I was ready and I believe Layla will too.

There is no right or wrong answer. You do what you need to do in order to bring comfort to your child. Whether it is a dummy, a comforter, their finger/thumb, a teddy or a doll, every child is different. Deciding whether to introduce or maintain a dummy should not be a dilemma but rather something that you decide to do given the circumstances you face.