WE DID IT!!!!! It’s gone. Bon voyage! I have never wanted to fast forward time more. I knew it was going to be a rough week/couple of weeks without a dummy so I was fully prepared for the potential nightmare ahead of me. I attempted to get rid of the dummy when Oscar was 6 months old and we did two nights of him lying in his crib with no dummy seeing if he would self settle (at no point did I let him cry, he was quite contently laying there) the first night it took 45 minutes of babbling and a little bit of fussing and then alas, he fell asleep without being cuddled or with a dummy! The second night it took 20 minutes and still no crying, I couldn’t believe it! I thought I would start gradually and just take the dummy away at bedtimes and then still give it to him if he wasn't settling in the middle of the night because lets be honest, it takes a lot of strength to continue any form of new routine (especially one that works) in the middle of the night when your eyelids are stuck together and all you desperately want to do is go back to sleep.
Night three came and Oscar wasn’t himself, he was really unsettled and miserable. I couldn’t work out why, until I looked inside his mouth and saw two tiny teeth on the bottom gums coming through - two at the same time, bless him! I gave him some Calpol and his dummy and he went to sleep. And that was that! The teeth didn’t stop coming until he had 6 in total and so the dummy stayed! I couldn’t bring myself to take it away as it brought him so much comfort and was the only thing that seemed to help him sleep better!
Fast forward three months and we’re at a 9 month old with 6 teeth who is now a dummy monster. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a lot worse. He has it in the car to avoid car meltdowns and help him drift off to sleep without any fuss if he’s sleepy, he has it for naps, bedtime and then all night, plus in and out messing around when he comes in our bed to watch TV in the mornings. When you list it like that, you’d probably be thinking when doesn't he have it?!
At 9 months and 6 teeth it seems like we are in the all clear for teeth. I can’t see or feel any new bumps or ridges in his gums and after fighting off a bastard cold for two weeks, he is FINALLY sleeping better. After a few nights of only waking at 2am and 5am, then up at 7am which is a really good night for Oscar… what does Mummy do? SHE FUCKS SHIT UP and takes the dummy away. Yep, yes I did. I mean, if you’re reading this and thinking, why would she do that when he finally started sleeping better? Doesn’t this woman want to sleep? Is she crazy?
Yes, yes I am crazy. But I knew that if he had his dummy until he was 2 and I tried to take it away with the ‘dummy fairies’ and his sweet little face looked at me and said “Please Mummy I miss my dummy, please can I have it, I can’t sleep without it.” My little heart would melt and give in and he would have his dummy until he was 15. So it was now or never. At 9 months he isn’t old enough to have a word for his dummy therefore couldn’t beg for it at night, say if I had left it until a year for example, I also plan/hope to stop breastfeeding just after a year so at this age he still has that comfort for him to fall asleep with and find some comfort even if he’s not feeding!
Without a doubt, and Google even says so, if you’re going to take the dummy away it’s advised to do it about 5 months. This means you skip all the teething and the baby isn’t old enough to know you’re taking the dummy away and is probably still feeding a lot so able to still have that comfort. The struggles that came about trying with 9 months were that he was strong enough to now arch his back and have a total melt down if he didn’t want to be rocked. He can also stand in his crib so it’s not a matter of ‘put the baby lying down and let him fuss’ because at 5 months he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. But at 9 months, Oscar can get onto his hands and knees and use the bars of his crib to stand up and try and destroy anything in his path! This made it much more difficult to find ANY way of soothing him.
I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of articles about the damage ‘cry it out’ can do to a baby and how when they are left to cry they release the same stress signals to the brain as though they are having a panic attack, the baby literally thinks they are going to die. So with that said, I wanted to do this in the most gentle way possible. This meant preparing myself for a lot of sleepless nights, lots of cuddles and lots of boobing. I was prepared for this but in the same sense, I still felt dreadful that the sleepless nights HE was having - were my decision! He would cry and cry as I rocked him, shh’ed him, rubbed his back and stroked his hair. It took a lot of will power not to just breastfeed him every time as of course, I didn’t want to start a new habit of ‘hey lets breastfeed you fifteen thousand times a night now you don’t have a dummy’. This was about him learning to sleep without it.
The first few nights were bad, considering normally when I put him to bed, I watch the video monitor all evening, carrying it around with me if I go to the toilet or the kitchen, making sure he’s breathing every now and again by focusing on his torso and watching it move up and down, then any second he starts crying or fussing, I sprint as fast as I can up the stairs to soothe him while he’s still in his sleepy phase as this normally takes far less time to get him back to sleep. I’m definitely not one for letting him cry, I hate it, I can’t deal with it. If we’re driving and he’s crying I’ll pull over, sometimes even feed him, I just feel like it’s my role as a mother to fix his needs as soon as I physically can, because why would I let him be upset if I can fix it?
I knew it would take some tears before he got used to not having his dummy. And I will say, there were some remarkable moments that really made it worth while. I still haven't reached the ‘getting rid of the dummy was the best thing I ever did’ stage, because it’s only been a week - but I can see it happening. The first few nights it took a few minutes of crying while being rocked for him to fall back asleep, at the time when he’s crying I envisage this crying going on for hours and that this is the end, when really it only took a few minutes before he settled down again. I was singing, humming, bouncing, rocking, swaying, shh’ing - you name it. So I knew he was only crying because he missed his dummy and that was O.K. and something he would get used to.
I did have a wobbler on day 4 and was organising my birthday evening out in a few days time with Luke and then another dinner the following night. I got all worked up in the middle of the afternoon that I had taken the dummy away at the wrong time and it’s not fair on him to not have me in the evenings for two nights in a row and that I was being cruel and then started to replay all the times he had been crying while I was rocking him, thinking I was being a terrible parent, being that there is a perfectly good way of settling him and I was point blank, refusing to give it to him. How evil was I? It took some calming down from Luke to reassure me that in the long run I was doing the best thing for him - it would help his speech, help his teeth and make him a less dependant baby on something to fall asleep and that if anything, maybe it would be better for him as he wouldn’t smell my milk and want to bed fed the whole time to get him off to sleep.
On night four, he stirred in his sleep a few times between 7pm and 11pm while I was downstairs, and whereas usually he would wake up, get onto all fours, climb over to the bars and pull himself up, then cry out for me and tug at the bars while crying… he simply got on all fours, cried, then led back down again on his front and went back to sleep. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT! I was usually doing 4 trips up and down the stairs to put the dummy back in an evening, to then spend all night up and down, feeding and soothing, putting the dummy back in. I couldn’t believe he had now learnt to put himself back to sleep. And I didn’t do any cruel techniques of leaving the room, ignoring him, letting him cry, I held him and soothed him the entire journey and it WORKED! He self soothes!!! MY BABY SELF SOOTHES!
I can now enjoy my evenings. He sleeps all evening from 7pm until 2am again, finally, but this time - I don’t even have to go in to put the dummy in. I’ll admit, when I tell people he used to sleep 7pm till 2am I didn’t include the times I put the dummy in which was about 5 times, so I guess I was lying. But now he REALLY sleeps 7pm till 2am, he stirs but puts himself back to sleep! It’s like watching David Blaine, I tell ya. Unreal. MAGIC.
I’ve also noticed that not having the dummy while driving in the car, he actually now sits in the back and babbles to himself, chatting away absolute nonsense. First off, its quite nice feeling like I’ve got company and I love hearing him talk, but also, how crazy to think had he had his dummy in the car for however many more months/years, he would be missing out on developing his speech every journey. He now chats and babbles all the time, all day long.
I’m glad I took the dummy away, it was emotional, difficult and really hard work but worth it. As I said, I’m still not at the stage of it being the best thing I ever did - as he still wakes in the night and I’m working on getting those wake ups to be less frequent or at least not need to be fed back to sleep. But after meeting with my health visitor for his 10 month check up she said it might be a bit cruel to take his dummy away AND stop night feeds all at once. So after he is used to not having his dummy and starts sleeping better - YEP I’m gonna fuck it all up and try to wean him off the night feeds, as my HV said if he’s still feeding in the day from me and also on three solid meals a day he will only be waking out of habit/for comfort rather than actually being hungry. I’m in no rush to stop the night feeds as I think if he needs comforting, he’s a baby, I’m not going to deprive him of feeling comforted. So maybe one day we can get it down to just being a cuddle and he dozes back off!
I didn't cut the dummies up, intact they’re still sat in their plastic Tuppaware grave, as I knew if he was hysterical and it really was unbearable that it simply wouldn’t be worth it to put him through, but all he really did was have a little cry and a moan and was back to being fine. The health visitor told me that if I was going to take them away I had to stick to it, as it wouldn’t be fair on Oscar if I kept giving in and giving it back but then taking it away for a few days and then giving it back - it would really confuse him and not be productive at all in helping him sleep without it!
So to sum up (this post is frickin huge - I must admit, Oscar wasn’t sleeping so I took him for a drive to get him to nod off this morning and I’m sat in my driveway on my laptop using my wifi while he has his morning nap, so forgive me for getting a bit carried away - word vomit)
- If you’re thinking of getting rid of the dummy, aim for 5 months.
- Never change a baby’s sleeping routine/habits while they are ill or teething, it’s just too cruel
- If you’re going to get rid of them - stick to it! Be strong
- Be as prepared as you can, you wont get much sleep so choose a time if you can where you partner can help and you know you don’t have anything important to do that week that you can’t be tired for
- Soothe your baby in every other way possible - it will pass, but let him know you're there
- Don’t cut out bottle feeds/nightfeeds at the same time as getting rid of the dummy, take one away at a time
I went cold turkey but it’s totally up to you if you want to cut it down by not having it in the day and only at naps/bedtime and gradually cut it down. Just don’t go cold turkey then confuse them in bringing it back after a few days only to do it all over again!
NB- I have LOVED having a dummy to help us get through the newborn days. He was given one on his second or third day of being in NICU to encourage him to suck and would also be given his dummy after being tube fed to associate sucking with feeling full so although many say a dummy can interfere with breastfeeding, for us it was an absolute saviour. Over the past 9 months the dummy has lead us to many a peaceful stretch of sleep, soothed a teething and poorly baby, been a saving grace when he's upset and all in all I couldn't have raised a baby without it - shout out to you dummies - you the real MVP!
Good luck Mamas - try and get some sleep!