My toddler is a recovering addict. If you spotted him anywhere up until a few days ago, chances are he would have been carrying around a beaten up baby pillow under his arm and sucking relentlessly on a dummy (pacifier / binky).
That was his go-to power combo for soothing, sleeping, boredom, comfort,calming down post-tantrum, you name it. And in recent weeks, he also added a milk bottle to the mix. Not to actually drink though. He would just make me pour a full bottle, then hold it close to his chest and fall asleep. Dummy, pillow, bottle all on standby.
At 2 years and 4 months old he is already at the age where most people think he should be “outgrowing” the need for inanimate soothing objects. But to me, his reluctant softie of a mum, the first two objects became a lifeline and a connection to his short-lived babyhood.
I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, if you’d have told pre-mummy me that I’d one day have a dummy sucking sproglet in my charge, I probably would have given you the middle finger. I was firmly of the anti-dummy establishment (teeth problems, delayed speech, etc were my reasons). We flirted with cherry dummies a bit in the first 3 weeks at home, mostly because our baby clinic had given them the stamp of approval. But when tiny Ryder would spit them out, I’d exclaim triumphantly: “See, he doesn’t like them! He doesn’t need them!”
|Day 2 at home. Grandma’s first experience bathing him.|
Well, that all came crashing down in the shitstorm of teething.
We went on for 5 more solid months without giving him one. I still remember the day we finally did (just as one always does remember such life altering moments). Ryder was crying incessantly. Not full-on screamy crying, but more that frustrating, low, non-stop, turn-you-slowly-insane moaning and whining they tend to do when they’re just permanently unhappy. We knew the first tooth was cutting. He was drooling buckets, miserable and sporting a low grade fever. Mummy and daddy were severely sleep deprived. Mummy was still getting up 2 or three times a night to breastfeed and/or pat back to sleep. Somewhere, somehow I found a dummy that had come with one of his bottle sets. I put it in his mouth. I’m almost positive I heard angels singing and birds chirping sweetly at that point. But it was just silence. Pure, sweet silence.
“What did you do?!” asked husband, in what I thought was veiled disgust. “I gave him a dummy,” I replied sheepishly, waiting for the backlash. “Wow, that’s wonderful,” said husband, actually meaning every word.
And then I ran down a long list of what our dummy approach would be. “Only while he’s teething.” Only when he’s very unhappy.” “Only at sleep time.” Blah blah blah.
Needless to say, it didn’t happen that way. Ryder set the terms for when he wanted his “dum-dum”. Not his naive mama.
We were advised to wean him off before he could actively ask for it, and certainly before a year. But first there was the excuse of: “He’s teething. He needs it,” and then at a year: “He’s going to be circumcised. He’ll need it,” and then around 2 years: “He’s starting play school. He might be anxious and need it.”
When he did start school, his anti-dummy teachers managed to wean him off easily during the day. But by the time he entered the house after being dropped off, he was a starved addict who needed his fix. I knew that if he could go the whole day without it, it was possible that we could start weaning completely soon.
And so my December holiday was set as the target for when I would start and finish the process. (But more about that in Part 2, because as usual I’m getting carried away on the wings of words here.)
About the pillow – When I was pregnant, one of the hundreds of must-have (but soon to be completely useless) items I bought was a Baby Sense taglet. I’d heard my mum recount stories of how her own kids had self-soothed with all manner of items (mine was rubbing the satin lining of one of her gowns between my fingers as I went to sleep, if you must know) and I wanted my little tyke to have a similarly cute quirk. I placed the taglet in his cot just as the packaging said. This would have probably worked, if (a) Ryder hadn’t spent much of his night in our bed, and (b) the taglet hadn’t been left lying alone in his cot with only a teddy bear nearby to potentially soothe.
My MIL had bought Ryder a ClevaMama foam baby pillow, and it was this object that would become his best friend over the months. It made sense. It was always nearby when he was falling asleep. We took it on road trips and pram rides. He loved it. Some of the quirks he developed were that he had a specific hand signal when he wanted it (a tugging downward motion with one arm, accompanied by the phrase ‘Uh uh uh”) and when he was ready to sleep he would pull off the cotton pillow case and snuggle his face and head directly into the foam. He also loved sleeping with it over his head (and child safety experts everywhere are letting out a collective gasp right about now).
It is incredibly bittersweet for me that he has now lost the need for these comfort items after only two short days of weaning. We are now on day 6 and by day 4 the dummy was but a distant memory that he didn’t mention at all. The pillow has also lost its emotional value and is now a purely functional item.
He is still my baby, and always will be. But this is yet another milestone that we’ve reached that drives home the fact that he is growing up so fast, and that every day is a sweet blessing that needs to be savoured in its full, awesome entirety.
*I’ll get onto Part 2 at some point with a run-down of our experiences over the few days of weaning.
Thanks so much for reading xx