If you ever feel like starting a fight or watching sparks fly just for fun, try casually asking a group of mothers what they think about toddlers who suck dummies. Like so many other parenting hot potatoes, it's a topic that divides opinion and guarantees some heated debate. But why?
Nobody seems to have a problem with babies sucking dummies - and indeed some studies suggest that dummies can reduce the risk of cot death for babies - but the sight of a walking, talking toddler sucking a dummy seems to be an entirely different matter.
Mum of four Julie says: "I love dummies for babies but I think it's pushing it for a child to still have a dummy at two years old. Once they get to toddler stage they shouldn't be running around sucking dummies. Perhaps at sleep times, but still - not past two!"
That's a sentiment shared by Sonja, mum to Annabelle, four. "It just looks shocking to see a child over the age of two with a dummy," she says. "Awful! Mind you, Annabelle does have a very grey, soggy-looking 'blankie' which she sucks. It's not the nicest habit but at least it's restricted to bedtime. Although now she's four I think we will have to decide how to 'lose' it soon."
Renee, a doting auntie to her sister's two children, begs to differ. "My sister used dummies with both her kids - now four and five years old - and they always settled themselves to sleep," says Renee. I think that's amazing and I'll have no qualms about using dummies if I ever have kids."
But what about when the time comes to ditch the dummy? Renee warns that her sister's approach will horrify some mums but says it worked a treat. "When her children were about two my sister took the dummies into another room and roughed them up with a pair of scissors when the kids weren't looking, then brought them back and said "Oh no! It's broken? We better put it in the bin..."
Mum of two Jill wishes she had tried something similar. "Don't get me started on dummies," she says in exasperation. "Never mind toddlers - my daughter has just turned five and she still has a dummy. I took it away a few weeks ago but cracked after three weeks and gave it back because she missed it so much and hated bedtime without it. If you want to take a dummy away from a child my advice is to do it before they are two. Otherwise it is just cruel. After all, thumbsuckers usually suck until well after the age of five."
Ah, thumb suckers. Mum of three Colette was always anti-dummies in principle but says her views changed when her son was born. A scan during her first pregnancy clearly showed her baby (now fifteen) sucking his thumb. "I hate thumb-sucking," she explains. "My contempt for thumb-sucking is even greater than my dislike of dummies, so I went with dummies to avoid thumb-sucking. I've had to pay for braces to sort out my son's teeth, no doubt due to dummy usage, but at least I could take away the dummy - I couldn't legally remove his thumb!"
Colette's youngest child is now three and she's struggling to separate him from his beloved dummy, or do-do as it is affectionately called in her house. She continues: "I don't like them in children over two so I restrict it to sleep time only."
Jude Burrows is a mum of four facing a similar challenge: "None of my children were ever interested in dummies as babies - until about two months ago when I tried to wean Holly (now 22 months) from breastfeeding. She found an old dummy that I bought ages ago and popped it in her mouth - and hasn't had out since. I think it looks dreadful but thankfully she was speaking well before she started using it so it hasn't affected her speech and it gives us all a good night's sleep.
Mum of three, Kerrie, works for Sure Start and agrees that dummies don't necessarily impact on speech development, if used sparingly. She advises never using a dummy when a cuddle will do, but admits that she happily relied on dummies at night-time. "Oh yes," she says. "Mama would do anything to get some sleep!"
Jude agrees that lack of sleep can play havoc with the best laid plans of parents when it comes to dummies. "I am dreading getting Holly off her dummy," she admits. "But I figure it can wait. My principles have slipped with lack of sleep!"
Excellent point. I'm inclined to think that most parents probably aren't exactly thrilled if their tot wants a dummy past babyhood - and that they're probably taking steps to address it, sleep permitting.
On that basis, the last thing they need is sidelong glances and snide comments from me. So I'm going to save my outrage for more pressing matters. Like why on earth are Jimmy Choo Uggs so distressingly out of my price range?
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