Ditching the dummy…

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Today is the 14th October. Scarlett is just over 15 months old and we are about to move into our new home. A new beginning, and as part of that, it’s time, to finally say goodbye to the dummies!!

Yes the dummy question! A lot of strong opinions on both side of the fence and we’ve managed to somewhat straddle the fence with our decisions. I’ve always been against them but the guidelines had been changed and the advice we received was that dummies are easier to get rid of than thumbs(…!) and so I relented and for the past year or so, Scarlett has used a dummy when tired or suffering from teething pain. Our plan was for her to use it when teething and then get rid of them before they started being a barrier to speech development and/or affecting her teeth alignment which are the two main concerns of using a dummy past age 1. Unfortunately for Scarlett her teeth are taking quite a long time so our 12 month cut off point started to get delayed. However, she’s now got to the age where she’s attempting to talk and say more words and with a dummy hanging out of her mouth, those words are harder to say or get distorted as she attempts to communicate with it in her mouth. And as that can lead to some sounds not developing properly, we decided it was time to ditch the dummies!

Now firstly, I would like to say that this is all personal preference, and some parents allow their children to have a dummy much longer, in the same way that some parents decide to never use one at all. In my group of friends with children Scarlett’s age, I have two who are dead against dummies and one who more than happily let her first child have one until he was 3 and a half and is doing the same with her second child. And I’m not saying that any of them are wrong. We’ve gone for a mid way compromise between the two main schools of thought because we were undecided and that’s what’s worked for us. 

We know we’re in for a few difficult days of ‘dummy withdrawal’ but already on day one of going cold turkey, she’s happily had both her normal naps. She took a bit longer to settle down for them but she then slept as usual. She’s stroppier today and obviously wants the comfort of her dummy but at this age, it’s much easier to break a habit in a few days than it is than when she’s older. And as she was able to sleep without, it’s obviously more of a comfort habit, than essentially required item.

So we’ve affectionately dubbed this time as Scarlett’s ‘dummy rehab’, we’ve been given her some dentinox when her gums seem painful and otherwise just accepting that a few extra tears for a little bit are inevitable. We’ve contacted family and friends who spend a lot of time with her or look after her to let them all know, as there’d be nothing worse than going through these few days only for someone to then unknowingly undo all our hard work and make us have to repeat the process all over again! And so far the response has been really positive, and we’ve warned that anyone breaking the rule is in for a big penalty! (Specifically a high cash fine so we can treat ourselves to a fancy dinner out if we have to do this process more than once!!) 

You may be reading this thinking, ‘alright you dictators!’ And usually we are very relaxed parents and don’t have lots of strict rules. But as we have three days now where we’re not due anywhere (we FINALLY have a bit of time to actually pack up our house!) it’s our very short window of time we can afford to have a slightly more screaming child without it affecting more people than ourselves (and the public in general)! We travel about a lot for work as a family and Scarlett is very well behaved, but if she’s upset and struggling without a dummy, it becomes impossible to take her to a busy theatre rehearsal, for example. And as we’re coming up to an extremely busy period with one Winter tour and one Paranormal festival on top of our normal schedules, the last thing we need is to have her suddenly screaming because she’s unsettled. It’s not fair on the people we work with, her or us! She generally enjoys exploring theatres and watching fight/acting rehearsals and workshops and it would make our jobs ten times harder for her not to be used to being without a dummy. So we’re being really strict as at her age, with no-one caving and giving her a dummy (even ‘just for a little bit’!!) it will only take a few days for her to adapt and find other ways of soothing herself or not being bothered by discomfort of her teeth coming through. So with a short window of time to achieve it, our relaxed approach is being replaced with a more determined, ‘don’t make this harder for her and us’ demanding approach! 

Saying all that, it’s never nice for a Mum to see her daughter crying knowing that she could stop the tears by giving her a dummy, but I know it’s for the best. And if it means she’s got a better chance of straighter healthier teeth and clearer, better developed speech, a few difficult days are more than worth it! 

I could get all my old child psychology textbooks out and start to talk about how it’s good for young children to be shown that her parents stand strong in their resolve for things like this so she gets a sense of security which can reduce the chance of things like low confidence and anxiety in the future. Or that even at this age, showing a child they can do something like cope without a dummy can install a sense of determination and lead to them sticking with things more in the future. But I’m not going to. Not because it’s not true but because frankly, even working within a psychology field I take all those things with a pinch of salt. Each child is so individual so we can try and give her the best chance developing in a happy healthy way, there are so many environmental and personal circumstances (not to mention her unchangeable genetic makeup) that will affect who she grows up to be, there’s no point in relying on these theories to guarantee she won’t end up either needing a brace, or lacking in confidence! 

So yes, the decision we’ve made is to take away the dummy, we don’t think this will magically mean she’s guaranteed a more successful life later on or that in doing so she will be problem free, we’re not quite that naive! But for us, this is the decision we’re making that’s best for our little family of three (and a half!). Hopefully I’ll be able to confirm next week that she’s dummy free! However this is parenting we’re talking about, so we all know there are no guarantees of a smooth ride…!

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