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Who’s the dummy?

So… you’ve got your new baby home and you think you are doing pretty well.  Hormonally you are a bit all over the place and you could do with some more sleep – but isn’t he gorgeous!? And aren’t you clever!?

A few weeks in to motherhood, you may be becoming an old hand at reading your baby: understanding when he is hungry and when he needs changing, but there are times when he just cries… 

It is inevitable that at this juncture you will at least consider attempting to introduce a dummy.  Most babies will take one – but every now and again I come across one who won’t.  So, do you persevere?  Or give up?  I have tried both and can honestly say every baby is different (there’s a news flash!).  Some babies find their thumbs or fingers and that will pacify them, some will have a muslin or a special blanket that does the trick and some will take the dummy after some cajoling. And all these things are just fine… until… until… until…

I had a client whose daughter was very attached to her muslin, which she sucked.  The little girl was starting to get a rash on her face where the moist muzzy rubbed and her mother thought perhaps now was the time to try to get rid of it.

What should she do? 

First consider the timing.  Is your child just starting school or have you just had a new baby or moved?  Any disruption is not a great time to try to instil new behaviour.  Give at least three weeks before suggesting a change to habits.

Try to limit the times of the day or places where the habit is acceptable.  (This is where a thumb or finger sucker comes unstuck – you can’t confiscate the offending digit nor can you try to limit time alone with it…  try bribery in these cases if you can’t appeal to your child’s natural honesty and sense of fair play!)  Perhaps in the car, in the house and in bed is OK.

Once you have limited the habit significantly for a week or two, constantly praise the child in terms of how grown up he is (and do it in front of teachers and other significant adults “Oh Mrs Barley!  You will never guess how good Josh has been!  He hasn’t sucked his thumb outside of our house for a whole week!”) and then renegotiate the terms, limiting it further – only in bed, only in the car, etc.

If necessary, determine an event that you can connect the surrender of the object (if there is an object - thumb suckers beware!) and negotiate.  Perhaps Father Christmas will only exchange a stocking full of presents for all the dummies?  Maybe it is the Easter bunny who has a yen for muslins?  This can be a huge event:  collecting up the items and placing them all in a box in readiness for the overnight exchange (unless daddy likes dressing up as the Easter bunny…), writing a note and then lots and lots of praise/phone calls to granny etc. once the goal is reached.  You could even plan a trip to the dummy tree in Frederiksburg Gardens where the Danish have institutionalised the surrender of dummies.

I promise you that all children will at some stage or another be able to manage this.  I do have a friend whose daughter had a blanket.  It was a special blanket and she had never seen the reason to wean her daughter totally off it.  It stayed in her bed and her daughter only needed it at night.  Her (teenage) daughter was going to Glastonbury one year and siddled up to her mother and asked her advice about blanky coming with her…  My friend was possibly a little readier for a warning discussion about drugs and alcohol and boys… but between them they came up with a plan.  My friend duly sewed a small piece of blankey into her daughter’s sleeping bag in a secret corner…  greater love hath no mother.

Posted on Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 05:55PM by Registered CommenterLucy Symons | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

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