Should I give my baby a dummy?
Ah, this is one question that possibly all new parents consider at least once! In fact, I’m considering it right now as my daughter screams her head off, refusing to go to sleep, and she’s nearly 2! However, when you’re a first-time mum, there’s a lot of overwhelming information about why you shouldn’t give babies dummies, or how long they should have them for, etc. etc.
So, here is the story of how my daughter came to have a dummy, and how she came to stop using it!
8.5 hour labour.
Breastfeeding ALLLLLLLL night.
Screaming ALLLLLLLLLL night.
Luckily enough we were the only family on the ward at the time, but my god was I so exhausted. The following morning, the midwife did her rounds and asked how we were.
“Why won’t she sleep?” I said, “isn’t she supposed to be tired, too?”
She sort of smirked at me, and while you may appreciate that it was a bit of a daft question, my baby had literally not slept a wink that day/night. My NCT classes had equipped me with the information that labour and birth would be equally as hard and sometimes traumatic for the baby as it is for us, so they should be doing a lot of sleeping in those first 48 hours.
I told the midwife that Olivia had been latching on and off all night and then she said the words that would change everything for me and my baby.
“She’s too sucky, she needs a dummy.”
I was confused. I’d heard all about teat confusion and asked her if it would cause problems with me breastfeeding. She said no, and repeated that my baby was too sucky and needed one. Exhausted and acting on the advice of a professional, my partner Jamie went down to the hospital shop to find one, which she wouldn’t take. I remember feeling relieved. I never wanted to use a dummy for her. In my mind it meant that she’d have it for years and that she’d end up as a toddler with a speech impediment and still using a dummy. Of course, that was completely irrational, but I wanted to avoid them as a matter of personal preference.
We were allowed to go home, and amongst the many gifts we had been given were some tommee tippee dummies.
Amid more screaming and constant breastfeeding during the night, and a baby who wanted to constantly not only be on me but be latched onto me ALL. NIGHT. LONG…
(Again, I know you’re reading this thinking “well what did you expect, you stupid cow?” The truth is, I have no bloody idea what I expected. It was my first time in that situation. I didn’t read any books or blogs or prepare myself in any way other than going to NCT classes, especially having been told that parenting books were a waste of time. So what I expected was nothing. I knew absolutely nothing.)
We tried again with the dummy, and eventually after a few nights she began to settle with it and took it quite well. Breastfeeding was going well, and she was gaining weight well too. There were no issues with teat confusion at all and everything seemed perfectly fine.
Her weight began to drop very steadily with no reason at all. She had a little bit of reflux but no other signs that she wasn’t taking enough milk. I was expressing regularly as well as giving her regular feeds. Teat confusion still wasn’t a problem at all – we were able to alternate very easily between tommy tippee bottles, avent bottles, dummy and breast. I remember feeling incredibly lucky compared with other mums I knew whose babies were very fussy with teats. We had a very good eating and sleeping routine and seemed to have found our little groove together.
I was told to go to a local breastfeeding group, where the lactation consultant told me my latch was wrong, and, oh yes, attacked me for giving my baby a dummy.
The very fact that Olivia had a dummy meant that the real problem went unnoticed for a further 3 weeks.
This is the reason why, with hindsight, I wish I had stuck to my guns and never given her one in the first place.
Olivia was diagnosed with a tongue tie, and finally referred to a specialist tongue tie clinic in London. This was also the last week that I was able to exclusively breastfeed my baby girl, and I had to introduce formula. Up until that point, her tongue tie hadn’t stopped her from breastfeeding, even though it was an anterior tongue tie and she couldn’t move her tongue from side to side! If you want to know more about breastfeeding a baby with tongue tie, click here.
I was sobbing in Tesco, putting the Cow & Gate through the checkout. I know how stupid that seems. It’s made no difference to her development whatsoever – she’s still as clever as she always would have been, but it’s just so devastating that it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I wanted her to get her nourishment from me, not an artificial replacement of me… But she had plummeted from the 75th percentile to the 0.9th, so what other choice did I have?
Unable to stop using bottles, we sacrificed dummies. She adjusted instantly, and didn’t miss it at all. In a way, I am glad that we had to stop using dummies at that stage. I honestly believe that once babies begin to have a proper awareness of what it is and what it’s for, it would be so much more difficult to take it away, and then my dreaded fears of having a toddler with a dummy would have been realised! There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s your choice, but, for me, I just don’t like them, and the truth is they really can affect speech development if they are used for too long.
So, all in all, dummies have their ups and downs. My main concern if I ever had another baby (which I don’t plan on doing) would be that I would have a similar issue. It was never fair for the lactation consultant to attack MY choice as a mother to give my baby a dummy, and I just couldn’t face that judgemental attitude again if I had a second baby with a tongue tie.
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, I would really recommend waiting to see if you can go without one. Teat confusion IS a thing, and although Olivia wasn’t affected by it, she is pretty much the only baby I know who can easily adapt between different teats and the boob. In my mind, they’re not worth the hassle of trying to take them away when your little one gets older, and although every baby needs comfort, they can get it just as easily from you, a teddy, or even a little blanket with far less complicated issues that can come up.
Let me know how you managed to get rid of dummies or why you decided to use or not to use them in the first place!