by Catherine Nelson-Williams
My daughter turned 3 at the end of June, and ditching the dummy is a milestone we still haven't reached.
I was thinking about this recently and how different things are the second time around. As a first-time Mum, I was adamant about getting rid of the dummy and bottle early, as per the pediatrician’s instructions. Giving up the bottle was easy enough as my son was one of those kids that preferred solids to milk so he easily stopped using his bottle soon after he turned one. Ditching the dummy however was another matter!
Ditching The Dummy - Why my 3 year old still has one
Maxi was about 2 and a half when we decided it was time for them to go. After a visit to the dentist we decided we would give them to the tooth fairy in exchange for a gift! He seemed excited and happily put his dummies in an envelope at the front door with a note for the tooth fairy. Night one went surprisingly well. Not a peep. He was thrilled with the turtle the tooth fairy had left him which could shine stars onto his ceiling at night. I couldn’t believe it had been that easy! Even the day nap the next day was fine. But night 2 was a whole different ballgame. It was as if he’d had a delayed reaction and the finality of giving up his dummies was finally hitting home. Suddenly there were copious amounts of tears and one very broken hearted little boy who just wanted his “num num’s back!”. It took all my willpower and every last shred of my patience to deal with what came next.
Day naps ceased to exist and I suddenly had a very overtired toddler on my hands.
He would refuse to nap and yet would often fall asleep eating his lunch – but if I tried to pop him into bed he’d end up in a full-blown tantrum. And speaking of tantrums, they suddenly were coming thick and fast, every day. I felt awful for him, his one first love had been taken away and every day he asked for them back and sobbed in his sleep. I tried my best to comfort him but it took a long time for him to stop asking (and many glasses of wine for Mummy!). I had many friends who had also ditched the dummy at a similar age and it had only taken a few nights of tears for them to adjust, but in our case it was about a month.
And now my daughter is 3 and a half and we're just starting to think about ditching the dummy.
I remember thinking when she was born that I wouldn’t even give her a dummy because it was so traumatizing having to get rid of it. And yet somehow it crept in slowly despite my best efforts! I distinctly remember one day trying to get her down for a day nap and rocking her in my arms for about 20 mins and I could hear my son calling out to me so I grabbed the dummy, popped it in and put her in her crib. Instantly her whole body relaxed and she went straight to sleep and I remembered what a godsend they could actually be!
The thing is, as a second-time parent, so many of my attitudes have changed.
I am much more relaxed about so many parts of parenting because frankly I don’t have the time or headspace to be as OCD (and trust me, I was seriously OCD) as I was the first time around. With my first, every meal was homecooked and organic where possible and sugar barely crossed his lips until well after he was 2. With my second, she just ate what was going, and if she was schlepped to another birthday party with her older brother and had some birthday cake or a treat that was fine! She also had her bottle for a lot longer as she loved her milk, but it didn’t worry me at all and I just gave her teeth a little brush in her room each night before bed. As a second time mum you also realise just how quickly it all goes, and how fleeting and precious the time is when they are so little.
So when it comes to ditching the dummy, I know she isn’t going to have it forever and that a little extra time is not going to make too much difference in the long run.
Her speech is fine (those who know her will attest to the fact that she’s the loudest kid around and the chattiest!) and now at 3 and a half, she is a full year older than Maxi was when he gave his up, and emotionally I believe she’ll be readier to do so when the time comes.
Actually, the time is coming up pretty soon. She decided she’s giving her dummies to Santa in exchange for the one thing she wants more than “anything in the world” – a damn Hatchimal 🙂 We’ve also planned to pop one into a Build a Bear so she can keep it forever and hug her special friend when she’s missing them. Part of me is dreading the whole thing but then again, as a second-time mum, the one thing I’ve learnt is that no matter how hard things seem in the moment, they always pass. I know she’ll be fine and before we know it, the dummies will be a distant memory and she’ll scoff at ever having wanted one, much like my son does now when I remind him how much he loved them!
But you can still wish me luck – I’m sure I’ll still need it, and every last ounce of patience I have! Who knows, perhaps as a 3-and-a-half-year-old she’ll just get on with it and be totally fine – and that WOULD be the perfect Christmas present!
Around this age, another toddler milestone can be getting over their sudden fear of the dark. Download our free Top Tips to help your child through this common fear below:
Catherine Nelson-Williams is the author of this article and founder of The Nursery Collective. She is a mum of two and juggles being a WAHM with blogging and running The Nursery Collective - a haven for mamas navigating the early years of motherhood, where you can find unique boutiques and services for Mum, Baby & Kids all in the one place.