When I was pregnant with Ella, I didn’t really make a conscious decision as to whether I’d give her a dummy or not. I guess I thought we’d see how we got on without one. Day 6 in hospital (we came home on day 7), and Ella was very unsettled. I kept feeding her, but it just seemed constant. With hindsight, I should have just fed and fed and fed until she settled, but I wasn’t clued up enough about breastfeeding and the whole supply and demand thing. So instead, I lay her in her crib beside me and put the knuckle of my little finger in her mouth. She sucked happily and drifted off to sleep, and this worked throughout the night. So, as soon as we were home, I sent Sean off to buy some dummies, and that was the start of Ella becoming a dummy-sucker!
I didn’t mind it at all when she was a baby. It helped settle her easily. And at three months, when I stopped breastfeeding her, it actually helped her to sleep through without the need for milk in the night. From three months old, she dropped night feeds (in stark contrast to Sienna who still occasionally has milk in the night at 14 months old, though is also a dummy sucker!!).
Ella’s never really had her dummy permanently in her mouth. We used the dummy ties to clip the dummy to her clothes to stop them disappearing, especially in the night. And I thought it looked unsightly having a dummy tie attached to her, plus the hygiene issues of the dummy dragging on the ground when she was crawling, so I kept them off her for the most part. She’d really just have her dummy when she was napping, at night or if she was upset. Then, from about 2 years, we restricted it to solely for sleeping. She had it on the very odd occasion when awake, if she was poorly, but mostly it was being used as a sleep prop.
I never really had a plan for when we would get rid of the dummy. But I kind of always assumed it would be gone by the time she was three. That all changed when sleep stopped happening!!! Sienna has never really been a great sleeper, and I can count on one hand how many times she’s slept from going to bed to getting up in the morning. Some nights, she could be awake for a good while. And Ella’s sleep isn’t great either. She definitely lulled us in to a false sense of security as a baby. Of course, when they become toddlers, there are new challenges, like night fear and dreams. So, I was in no rush to make things harder for us by taking Ella’s dummy away, especially as she only really had it at night time anyway.
Ella would also look forward to going to bed. It wasn’t difficult to encourage her to go to bed, and sometimes she’d ask to, because she’d know her dummy was there waiting for her. I could use it against her to brush her teeth before bed, saying she wouldn’t be allowed her dummy unless she brushed them! It was a handy little piece of plastic!
But, it had to happen some time. Her third birthday came and went on the 2nd July, and still the dummy was a part of her life. We ordered her a swing and slide set for her birthday, but it didn’t arrive on time, so she couldn’t have the surprise of that on her birthday. Sean realised that it might actually make a good ‘dummy fairy’ present. We know a few people who’ve had the dummy fairy come to visit. Generally it means the child leaves their dummy somewhere for the dummy fairy to come and collect, and the dummy fairy will leave something in return. I don’t think it’s necessary for it to be as big as a swing and slide set!! But as we had one on the way, we decided to use that.
We’d lead up to it for a while, talking to Ella about the dummy fairy, and that the dummy fairy would leave her a present in return for her dummy. And to really convince Ella, we then told her that that present would be a swing and a slide. She was very excited! We agreed that she would leave one dummy in the garden for the fairy, and that the rest she would donate to Sienna. She left her dummy by a bush in the garden. Then off to bed she went. I was nervous. For her whole life, near enough, Ella had used a dummy to get to sleep. Now we were asking her to go it alone.
It wasn’t so bad at first, on that very first night. She actually went to sleep within five minutes of going to bed. But then she woke about fifteen minutes later, and that’s when she struggled. As her dummies have always been attached to her, she tends to go to grab it in her sleep, while half asleep, before she fully wakes up, but there was no dummy there to grab. The tears started. I spent about an hour in with her, until she finally drifted back off to sleep, and I could head back in to the garden to help with the construction of the swings. It might not have been our finest idea giving ourselves only one evening to construct it, but it got it made I guess (though we only managed the swings that night, and the slide followed a couple of days later!)!
In the night, she woke again, and again struggled to get back to sleep. My fears were confirmed. It was going to be tough. But I realised that it was going to be tough no matter when we did it, and probably more so if we left her to get any older. So, night one wasn’t the greatest of successes. After slogging away all Friday evening but only having time to get the swings up and not the slide, Sean was so disheartened when Ella’s first response in the morning was ‘where’s the slide?’!! But she absolutely loved the swings and is on them whenever it’s not raining!!! The slide was added a couple of days later, and she loves that too. The only thing we hadn’t thought through was how long we’d spend pushing the girls on the swings, and helping Sienna down the slide, which she is obsessed with!!
I was more than ready for night two to be similarly difficult. But Ella went straight to sleep when she went to bed. There was no mention of the dummy. She did wake in the night but didn’t take long to settle. And then, illness struck!
Ella came down with a chest infection on Sunday I think. She just didn’t seem herself at all. On Monday, she fell asleep at about 11.30am, which she never does. Tuesday her temp went as high as 40 degrees. And Wednesday, I took her to the doctors after work. They wanted to hospitalise her due to the impact it was having on her breathing, but the hospital suggested antibiotics and an inhaler instead. While Ella hasn’t been too bad during the day, the nights have been hard. She’s been having bad coughing fits, which have woken her. And she doesn’t feel well, which upsets her a lot in the night. It was probably the worst time for her to no longer have the comfort of her dummy in the night. But actually, she hardly asked for it! The only time was when we were leaving the doctors, it was 6.30pm at night, and she said ‘I don’t want my swing and my slide, I don’t want to be a big girl any more, I want my dummy!’. And that was about the only mention, apart from a very brief request for it in the middle of the night one night.
I do think she wouldn’t have struggled quite so much in the night if she had her dummy to help comfort her or if she was more used to falling back to sleep without it, though who knows? I’ve been incredibly impressed with how quickly she’s moved on from using it. She’s still waking in the night with the odd coughing fit, though is now going straight back to sleep and not anywhere near as poorly any more. I guess if she can get rid of the dummy when she’s poorly, then it was definitely the right time for it to go. I’ve left Sienna’s dummy lying round during the day to see what she does, as she had got in to the habit of pinching them and hiding to have a suck on a dummy, when she was only allowed hers to sleep. But she has shown no interest in them at all! She did at first pick it up and hide to put it in her mouth, but quickly took it out again as if it felt really foreign to her, just as I might if I put a dummy in my mouth!
I do find there are a few parenting ‘hassles’ that actually haven’t been anywhere near as bad as I had played them out in my head. Moving from cot to bed, potty training, and now removing the dummy too. Kids really are more adaptable than we give them credit for. And I have the benefit of experience now when it comes to removing Sienna’s!
Well done Ella, you suddenly seem a more grown up girl than ever before!