Before or after our babies arrive, we may automatically have the soother in our baby bag for back-up. No parent knows whether their child will take to it; however, when they do, it can often be their comfort for as long as it’s needed.
The soother debate
There is no doubt ‘the soother’ divides opinion, creating lots of debate. After recently sharing my own thoughts, I found that a lot of parents became upset and frustrated, often feeling judged on the decisions they had made for their children. My belief is that it truly is each and every parent’s decision on what they want for their child. Sometimes parents are concerned that it may affect their child’s teeth, cause excessive dribbling, or even contribute to ear infections, but they can weigh up the pros and cons and make an informed decision, and manage the amount of soother use that their child has on a daily basis.
Soothers have many benefits too, particularly for premature babies. Not only does it enhance their sucking reflex, but when given a soother to suck on before feeds, the baby can adapt more quickly from tube-feeding to bottle and breastfeeding. He may also be calmer and settle more easily before and after his feeds. This sucking reflex that our babies develop can relieve pain and distress - for example, if he's having his immunisations or is teething. Finally, the more well-known comfort is helping our babies and children soothe or calm when upset, and also as a means to falling asleep.
The time will come for many parents and children when they want to say ‘goodbye’, and for any anxious parent it’s the thoughts of it more so than anything else. While it is difficult to separate the child from its beloved soother, it is not impossible.
How we can help
Never attempt to get rid of the soother just prior to or straight after the arrival of a new baby; likewise, during times where there is a big change like starting crèche, moving rooms within the crèche, or mum returning to work. You want to pick a time that your child is content and in good form so he’s ready to make the change. Although we may feel they’ll never be ready, as parents we need to be confident in them that they can do it. Lay on the praise and encouragement, and make them feel good. If everyone has decided that the time is right for this change to happen, remember it’s really important to be consistent and persevere.
Prepare your child
Often, the best way to start is to talk to your child beforehand, to prepare him, and then go cold turkey. Firstly, have a reason why the soother is going away - choose a special time like Christmas or a big boy birthday. Come up with a plan together that your child can agree to, and then follow through with it. Ideally, time it when you have support at home, preferably over a weekend, and decide on lots of distractions like swimming, playground fun, water play at home, finger painting or baking!
There are lots of story-themed books that can help your child understand and take comfort in giving up their soother. 'I Want My Dummy' by Tony Ross and 'The Last Noo-Noo' by Jill Murphy are just a couple that parents have found helpful. Story-themed books, in general, are a great medium for children to communicate the more difficult feelings, emotions and life events! I recommend them wholeheartedly to parents as a positive means to chat to their child.
It’s all about the Fairies
For one parent, “We put my three-and-a-half year old's soothers in a plastic bag and told her the Soother Fairy would bring her a little toy she wanted in exchange for them. We had talked for months about giving them up and explained that soothers are for babies and not big girls. To our amazement (and we have a strong-willed child!), she willingly put them outside the front door. In the morning, a beautiful package was there with the toy she requested. She never mentioned the soothers again."
Although it might not be that easy for every parent, there is a great Fairy Tree in Marley Park, near Rathfarnham, where all the little boys and girls pin their soothers along with the rest. In Rathbeggan Lakes in Co. Meath, Síog the Fairy will collect your soother and in return all the brave boys and girls receive a certificate! Or you can visit the fairies on the ‘Enchanted Fairy Walk’ in Tymon Park. These experiences can be a memorable time for a little person, so marking that special ceremony can be full of magic.