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The great dummy debate

The age old dummy debate is something that everyone seems to have an opinion on, whether they are a parent or not. Some see it as “common”, a lazy parent’s solution, whereas others see it as a moment’s peace and something to soothe their crying baby.

If you look into pros and cons of offering a dummy or pacifier, the internet will present you with a whole array of things to consider. pediatricians, parents, therapists, and dentists all offer their opinions. Pro dummy reasons include a reduction in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and helping babies soothe themselves. But there are also reasons against dummies, including nipple confusion for very young babies that haven’t established breastfeeding, parents mistakenly offering dummies instead of a feed and even pacifiers leading to delayed speech in toddlers.

I’ll admit, even before I had my baby, I knew I was anti-dummy. I didn’t want to put my boy in any habits that would be hard to break.
I didn’t want one of those toddlers that had a meltdown in public because he had lost his it somewhere and I didn’t want to be judged as a “bad parent”. No thank you!

Avar was born in October 2013 and for reasons that I won’t go into here, we moved on to formula feeding. He was a very content baby and fed like clockwork. However at four months old, he was still waking in the middle of the night for a feed, despite having more than his recommended amount of formula.
He was getting “rounder” by the day too. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to offer Avar a dummy if he woke in the middle of the night. If he went back to sleep, I knew he just needed something to soothe himself. If he was genuinely hungry, no dummy would keep him quiet!

It turns out it was just a soothing thing and four months on, we still only use it as a soother to help with sleeping. Of course there are times I want to just give it to him to get a moment’s peace and I have given into that urge a couple of times. But on the whole, Mr. D and I have stuck to our guns.

If you do decide to offer a dummy to your baby, then here are some guidelines to help you:
  • Find a dummy that is BPA free, has ventilation holes to permit air passage and ideally has an orthodontic, symmetrical nipple which will not disturb the natural development of baby’s palate, teeth and gums
  • Clean and sterilise the dummy, as you would any bottles
  • Check  it regularly for damage and replace it if necessary. Cracked nipples trap germs.Be strict with yourself in when you offer the dummy. Use it for soothing purposes only and not whenever your baby wants it
  • Never dip the dummy in anything sweet to help him stop crying as this can lead to tooth decay. Especially avoid honey if your baby is less than a year old.
  • NEVER use a dummy clip (or similar attachment device) at night for risk of choking
  • It is also important to know how and when to wean your baby off their dummy. Experts recommend doing this before their first birthday as it may become more difficult after this age. The dummy is also more likely to interfere with speech development after this age.

Just like the decision to introduce a dummy, how you decide to wean it off is also a very personal choice. You may decide to go “cold turkey”,gradually reduce the usage over time or the “Dummy Fairy” is always at hand to take the dummy away (and will of course leave something in exchange for it!). However, you do it, the one piece of advice I would definitely give is once you have weaned your baby off it, throw the dummy away! It is all too tempting to get it the next time your baby is crying, but if you do, all that hard work will have gone to waste and we all know that babies are enough hard work as it is.

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5 tips to start weaning your baby

Weaning can be one of those difficult milestones for both parent and baby. There are so many options out there; will you be doing baby purées and spoon feeding, how about finger food and baby led weaning? Will you cook everything from scratch or use shop bought baby food? My first weaning experience wasn’t particularly enjoyable; my son wasn’t a great eater. I was dreading it second time round with my twins but it couldn’t have gone any smoother; they eat EVERYTHING! My two weaning experiences couldn’t have been more different; I tried every trick in the ‘fussy eater’ book with my first and I still try to get him to eat more. Yet the twins eat so many different meals and foods, prepared in different ways, some spoon-fed, some finger foods and as they get older more meals based around what we are eating. I cook a lot at home but they have shop bought meals too if I’m short of time. I thought I’d share 5 of the things that have helped me and especially the things I learnt first time round.

Be prepared:

Start with the basics; baby feeding bowls that are microwave safe, weaning spoons, plastic storage pots that are freezer proof, bibs, bibs and more bibs (especially if you have twins!).
I already had a steamer attachment for my pan and a hand blender. These saw me through my first weaning experience and I don’t think you need anything fancier. You might want to invest in a baby cookbook too, I found them useful for recipe inspiration and most of them have a good overview of what they can eat at each age. I found it best to batch cook baby purees and meals to freeze and have ready to go.

Be flexible:

It may be that you already know how you want to feed your baby and that is great but be prepared to go with the flow if you need to. Some babies hate being spoon fed but will gladly tuck in with their hands, likewise some finger foods can put babies off and they would rather eat another way.Although you may think you want to exclusively do it one way or the other it’s good to keep an open mind and use all the options.

Variety is good:

If there was one thing I think I could have done more with my first it would be to offer a greater variety of food. I believe that if babies try different foods young it will help them to be better eaters in the future. My eldest will eat every fruit under the sun but he tried so many when he was a baby, however with main meals I tended to stick to his favourites and I wish I had pushed him to try different things. Now I try to introduce new foods a couple of times a week while keeping favourites on the menu too.

Make mealtimes fun:

This can be a tough one especially at the beginning. It takes time but it is easier now we all sit together and I feed them at the same time. We are able to talk and sing songs, sometimes I put music on and try to keep it light-hearted. If I’m feeling particularly energetic I’ll make their food more fun; think funny faces on pizza, dinosaur shaped butties or picnic style nibbles!

Relax:

There will be mess, there will be times when they don’t want to eat what you put in front of them, there will be times when you want to go back into the kitchen and scream but if you can relax it will make the whole process so much easier. Remember in the early stages it is more about new tastes than actually filling them up, that’s what the milk is for. Don’t panic if they won’t eat something, just try it again in a couple of weeks. If you can stay calm, and sometimes I know that is easier said than done, it will benefit you and baby.

Hayley Smith is a stay at home mum to three boys. She blogs at Hayley From Home all about family life, both the happy moments and the challenges.
You can follow her on twitter @hayleyfromhome.