I hate dummies.
I *really* hate dummies.
I mean, they’re horrid, aren’t they? Surely no one actually goes into parenthood intending to use one. Moses basket? Check. Car seat? Check. Dummies? Check.
Nope. It’s only once confronted with a screaming, squalling infant that anyone actually thinks these hideous plastic gobstoppers are a good idea.
When The Boy was born, it very soon became apparent that he was a screamer. Before his birth, I was working as features editor on a well-known parenting magazine, and so when I was bade farewell from the office, it was with several huge sacks of PR freebies in hand. At the bottom of one of those sacks was a pack of dummies. Glow-in-the-dark dummies, no less.
I unpacked the sacks, marvelling at all the amazing goodies within (breastpump… steriliser… Grobag… Buggysnuggle…), and swiftly hid the dummies at the back of a drawer. We wouldn’t be needing those.
Post-birth, three days into the screamathon that was to last most of The Boy’s first year, hubby suggested trying a dummy. So what did I do? I ripped one of the glow-in-the-dark monstrosities out of its packet and wafted it vaguely in the direction of The Boy’s mouth. He clamped his jaws shut, and I threw it in the bin. ‘We tried a dummy,’ I then said to everyone who asked, ‘but he didn’t want it.’
Eventually, at 14 weeks, The Boy learnt to suck his thumb.
This time round, things were a bit different. With an older child to worry about, we couldn’t afford to let The Baby scream for three months until she found her thumb. And once it became apparent that she, like her big brother, was a sucky baby, I dispatched hubby to the shops to get some dummies.
She spat them out – and I was secretly glad. What discerning children I have.
Fast forward a few days, and I was on the verge of a U-turn of Cameron proportions. The Baby was happy – if she was attached to my boob. Otherwise, forget it. The Boy was having to eat three-minute pasta for dinner every day because that was all I could manage to cook before The Baby started yelling again.
Then someone on the parenting forum that I frequent suggested trying a cherry dummy rather than an orthodontic teat. By this point, I was tearing my hair out, so I sent hubby off to Boots with a description of what to buy.
When he came home, I was horrified. Out of his bag he pulled a pack of the two most horrendous dummies I’d ever seen – turquoise blue and hot pink, with great big bull-with-ring-through-nose handles. They were the ugliest dummies known to mankind; all that was needed to complete the look was a big fat gilt chain threaded through the loop and strung round The Baby’s neck.
I resisted, and resisted, and resisted a bit more, but sleep deprivation got the better of me. And where the orthodontic teats with their subtle clear plastic had failed, the chav dummy succeeded. The Baby latched onto it and wouldn’t let go.
The first time I saw my precious, delicate baby girl with that lurid lump of pink and blue plastic plugged into her mouth, I could have cried. Without it, she was so perfect; with it, well, she just looked horrible. But she was quiet and contented, and for that reason alone, I had to swallow my pride. Suddenly, I had no right to be a dummy snob, because I was a dummy user too.
We’ve made a bit of progress since then. I said I’d get rid of the dummy before 12 weeks, and at 20 weeks, The Baby is still using it, and has resisted all attempts to progress from cherry teat to orthodontic dummy, but it’s only for sleeping, and tends to fall out of her mouth within minutes of her nodding off. I had visions of The Baby toddling round at two years old, dummy plugged in and mumbling unintelligibly, but having canvassed my dummy-using friends, it appears that it’s not unreasonable to confine it to the cot. And I managed to find some cherry dummies in an almost-transparent pale pink, rather than the day-glo efforts hubby presented me with. They’re almost inoffensive.
Here’s the irony – I’m still a dummy snob. If anyone asks me if we use a dummy, I’m all too quick to say that we do – but it doesn’t leave the cot. The other day, when I saw a mum forcing a dummy into the mouth of her baby – who, at that point in time, was smiling and happy and in no need of soothing – I shook my head in disapproval. I guess that makes me a hypocrite of the worst kind.
But if using a dummy to help The Baby settle at bedtime gives me 10 minutes peace to read to The Boy (we’re currently in the middle of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator), then so be it. I still hate the wretched things, though, and I’m ever hopeful that one of these days, The Baby will decide that her thumb is a better option than that nasty silicone blob. And if not? Well, I guess you’ll need to check back in here in two years time when the Dummy Fairy pays a visit. I just hope that she brings gin.