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'My little boy is three-and-a-half and still loves his dummy. Yes, I'm self-conscious about it'


Andrea Mara and son Matthew

Andrea Mara and son Matthew

Andrea Mara and son Matthew

I knew very little about babies when I was expecting my first, but I knew all about what I wouldn't be doing. And one of those certainties was around soothers. There was no way I was giving any child of mine a dummy. I would soothe her myself - I wasn't outsourcing the job to a piece of plastic.

For seven weeks, I walked the floors with my baby, feeding her and rocking her while she cried and cried. At my wits end, and now certain that I knew absolutely nothing about babies, I gave in. I bought a dummy.

I sheepishly popped the illicit purchase in her mouth, and the change was instant. She started to suck. And all was quiet. And it was magical.

Without sounding too dramatic, I think that little piece of plastic saved my sanity. It gave me a tool. One I used sparingly at first, but just knowing it was there made me feel more in control.

I still fed my sucky baby as often as she looked to feed, but now I had a plan B too.

My third child, Matthew, is now three-and-half, and like his two big sisters before him, he's very fond of his dummy. I weaned him off daytime use about six months ago, so he only uses it at night.

I did it partly because of concerns about teeth and speech, but if I'm honest, despite the sanity-saving power of dummies, I didn't want him walking around with one stuck in his mouth every day.

It meant he wasn't chatting as much as he should, and it meant I couldn't see his smile. And yes, I was self-conscious. All parents have their benchmarks, and for me, while it was okay as a toddler, I knew I didn't want him walking into pre-school with a dummy.

So now we're secret dummy users - he never looks for it during the day, but he uses it every night to get to sleep. His two big sisters had stopped nighttime use by three, but my smallest is a bad sleeper, and I'm not willing to poke the bear.

I have moments when I feel guilty - checking his teeth to see if they're straight, wondering if he'll still need it when he starts school. But mostly, I'm just glad to have a tool that helps my bad sleeper sleep. On that, I'm with the Beckhams - when it comes to parenting, you do whatever works.

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