Saturday, 15 February 2014

No Place for Heroes

I don't like dummies. In fact, I hate them, always have. I think that it's such a shame when a beautiful baby face is covered by an enormous plug, and I know from family experience that it's hard to get a child to part with them if you don't tackle the issue within the first year.

When pregnant, I swore that Blake would not be using a dummy, no matter how much he cried. I decided that I would rather spend an hour trying to soothe him myself than have him quiet in minutes using a dummy. But then he arrived and I swiftly learnt that parenthood is no place for heroism. Millions of families up and down the country turn to dummies every day, and there's a very good reason for that.

A dummy will keep you all sane.

If your new bundle hasn't found their thumb yet, a dummy might be the only thing stopping your overtired baby from fighting their naps, or that keeps them satisfied between feeds. If your baby is breastfed, the other alternative is often the nipple. The baby will demand to be fed regularly, only to suckle lightly until they sleep. I have let this happen for seven weeks now and I have paid the price: I have paid with my nipples. If I had tried to continue in the same vein, they probably would have fallen off. Blake and I were both tired and upset and I very seriously considered giving up on breastfeeding altogether.

Introducing a dummy has saved my sanity, my nipples and my relationship with my son, and I am thrilled that I stopped trying to fight the inevitable.

I had a lot of ideas about the sort of parent that I wanted to be when I was pregnant. Apart from the dummy issue, I also swore that my baby would never sleep in my bed with me, it was to remain a place for my husband and I; I promised that I wouldn't pick him every time he cried, if I knew that he was fed and dry I planned to exercise controlled crying from the start; and I made big statements about breastfeeding for at least six months. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have broken all of these rules apart from the breastfeeding one, but I have moved the goal post to three months.

It's not that my beliefs about parenthood have changed, my values are exactly the same as they were before, it's just that you take a new approach to the challenges of parenthood when you're facing them. That approach is 'Whatever Works'; if it gets you through the day and night without you packing up the car and driving away then do it. Don't be a hero.

For the record, I still hate dummies. It breaks my heart that his perfect face is covered by a lump of plastic, and I'm racked with guilt that I've probably created a sleep crutch for him that I'm one day going to have to break but, for now, he's rested and he's happy and that's about the most that any parent can ask for.

Who can argue with these results?