Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ditching The Dummy

Erik has had a dummy (or 'pacifier' as it is known by some /wink) since he was born. All my children liked to suck. A lot. I chose to breastfeed my children exclusively, and was told by all the midwives to 'feed on demand' - in other words, whenever the baby cried, give them a booby. This bothered me. I did not want to become a human dummy for them, and totally disagreed with the whole 'demand feeding' theory anyway - routine is best in my opinion and experience. Anyway, I had enough pain with breastfeeding that I really only wanted to do what was required to nourish the child, and no more. I really didn't like breastfeeding at all, despite that it was all my choice. It was painful, uncomfortable, and majorly inconvenient. So when they cried for more, and knew they were fed to full, clean, dry and warm, I gave them a dummy. Sometimes, they just liked to suck. That seemed a pretty normal thing for a newborn to do, so it never bothered me much.

My first two babies were weaned off their dummies at 8 weeks or so. I decided I didn't want to keep getting up during the night to find it for them now that they had started sleeping through the night. It was only a matter of hours before they found their thumbs. I laughed. That's just my babies I guess. For the next six to seven years, those two girls and their thumbs were inseparable (har har :P). I tried a few different ways to get them to stop, but in the end, thanks to a suggestion made by a relative, Tabasco sauce did the trick. They didn't like the smell of it! So their thumbs didn't even get into their mouth to taste the burn anyway.

When my son was born, despite being much quieter - much more placid - he still liked to suck too. It took a fair bit longer for him to really get the hang of breastfeeding. But we did it. And it took a fair bit longer for him to accept and retain the dummy. He started sleeping through around the same time as the girls... though closer to 11 weeks than 8... but I went down the same track for him as the girls with taking the dummy away. It didn't work. He never found his thumb. He would just cry and cry. So I kept getting up to find it for him.... for the next 2 years or something like that. It took ages before he could find it himself and resettle himself.

When he was smaller, I was not too fussed. I recalled how difficult it was to wean the girls off their thumbs, so I reasoned that the dummy would be easier, since it isn't actually attached to him. But he never seemed to come to a place of understanding so I could go ahead with it. As he grew older though, I became more concerned. I always hated the look of bigger children with a dummy in their mouth, and was desperately not wanting to have a child like that. But Little Man, being Little Man, was not like an ordinary child. The circumstances here were different.

If you can recall a post several months ago (almost a year!) where I outlined some goals for us, it was in that post that weaning my son from the dummy was mentioned as one of those goals. Well, the time had come where I finally felt ready. After all, he was nearly four! - Well past time in my opinion. How to go about it was an issue though. He still seemed to lack a certain understanding, so I felt that involving him in the process was not going to work. I felt so bad that I couldn't prepare him for this, but cold turkey really seemed the only way. It wouldn't be good enough to just hide the dummy though. He is not stupid. I decided instead to snip off the bubble bit, and leave it on his bed as usual.

Bedtime came, and he came to bed as per his routine. Immediately he noticed his dummy was different. He picked it up slowly and, ever so quietly, started whining. Slowly, he examined his broken dummy... bottom lip trembling... eyes welling up with tears. I kid you not, at this point I was barely holding it together myself! Sobbing softly, he pulled at the little nib to try and find the bobble. He tried to put what remained of it in his mouth. He took my hand and put the dummy in it, picked up my other hand and put it on the nib. Fix it mummy!... his eyes seemed to say, pleading with me. He would not take it back from me anymore. He wouldn't touch it. It was no good. It was broken.

It occurred to me that his attachment to his dummy was maybe a little more than that of a regular kid? Maybe? The reason being, the one of Little Man's stims is to lick things. The dummy was not just a comfort sucking habit since babyhood, it was a comfort in a stimmy sense for him too.

My heart completely broke. What have I done?? I asked myself; but it was too late to go back now. If I really wanted him to be free of his dummy - and I did for various reasons - I'd have to go through with it. I held the dummy up in my hand and gently told him "It's broken darling! Oh dear, it's broken! Finished", I signed, "you can't have it anymore." He sobbed and sobbed. I was not prepared for this. Don't know why, but I just wasn't. I was prepared for a long night of no sleeping, and some crying. But not this deep - almost grief! - that he was expressing over his broken dummy.

I tried to encourage him to sleep, but he wouldn't. He couldn't. I didn't know what to do. I kissed him and tucked him in as usual, and left him. He was still crying when I shut the door, but I just couldn't leave it that way.... my heart was breaking for him. Then I had an idea. A few weeks before, I had received a delivery of some special toys I had ordered for him, for use at my SIL's wedding. One of his favourites turned out to be a small bouncy, knobby ball that lights up when you bounce it or hit it hard enough. Perfect. It was not noisy either, so it shouldn't disturb Baby Miss if he needs it during the night. I brought it in to my Little Man, where he was still sitting and staring at his broken dummy with tears in his eyes, softly crying.

I sat down beside him and put my arm around him. I kissed his temple - my favourite spot - and whispered that he was a big boy now, and didn't need the dummy anyway. I picked it up, shrugged my shoulders and remarked how it was broken again. "Oh well", I shrugged. And I threw it across the room. I thought he might get out of bed to find it, but he didn't. He seemed to understand. It was finished. Then I showed him the light ball. Immediately he took it and held it close. I helped him light it up a few times, until he got the hang of it. With a tear-stained face, finally, he started laughing. He liked the ball. I helped him lie down with the ball in hand. This would be his comfort stim at night instead of the dummy. For a long time I stayed with him, just being with him while he worked it all out.

After I left him there, he cried out a few times. He lost the ball and couldn't find it. So I had to go in there to find it for him. But eventually, all was quiet. I went in there to check on him before I went to bed for the night. He was asleep. Finally, asleep. Without his dummy.

All of this was actually done 3 weeks ago. In that time, he has not 'asked' for his dummy once. There have been some night time disturbances where he wakes up and cannot settle again. We had to remove the light bulb and door handle again, but we are now almost back to the point where we can just put them in again. Actually, light bulb is already back. Door handle is not. He doesn't even need the ball anymore - he lost it after the second night, and I couldn't find it anywhere. So he had to get used to sleeping without that. I am so proud to say he goes to bed now without a dummy, ball, or anything special apart from his blanky. And I am almost - almost - ready to throw out the spare dummy still sitting in the top of his cupboard :)



  1. =)
    sweet boy. good job, mama! i did the same thing with my daugher Hope (NT) - i snipped off the top of the pacifier. my plan was to gradually snip more and more off until there was nothing left to suck on. but she rejected it as soon as she saw that it was "broken." your Little Man's grief sounds heartbreaking, but i'm glad that he seems to be over it! huge step!

  2. Go ahead and throw it out! Anything else at this point would be going backwards! LOL! We went through a similar process with Tinkerbell. Only, she had several pacies and we had to "break" them all one by one until there were none left.