Millie Keeling, from Carlton-in-Lindrick near Worksop, was a teenage mum when she found out first-hand what effects a dummy could do to a child’s speech after she noticed her first son, Marley, struggling to talk.
As part of the Trust’s “Drop the Dummy” campaign launched across the county, Millie is sharing her story to encourage other mums, who may not be aware of the dangers of dummy use, to take action now.
“As a teenage mum I didn’t know what to expect about bringing up a child” explains Millie, now 25. “I gave Marley a dummy from birth as I thought this was the ‘norm’, and it looked cute.
“Marley was 18 months when I noticed he wasn’t talking clearly and I couldn’t understand a word he was trying to say. I was also worried about his hearing as he didn’t seem to acknowledge me some of the time but I didn’t know what to do about it.
“I regularly took Marley to a Stay and Play session at West Bassetlaw Children’s Centre. It was here that I got advice and referred onto Home Talk®, a programme run by Nottinghamshire Healthcare to help develop a child’s language and communication.
“Following advice from a specially trained language worker from Home Talk®, I removed Marley’s dummy. They worked closely with Marley and me at home on a one to one basis, talking at his level through play and using simple words to build up his language. I was told about how dummies can affect a child’s speech, development of teeth, hearing and other learning at school. I was shocked at the damage it could do.
“I thought I would have problems when I removed Marley’s dummy as he’d always had it from birth, but he was great and wasn’t bothered at all. However, I’d had a second child, Jack, by this time and I decided to remove his dummy at the same time. Jack was harder to convince and he became quite aggressive, angry and moody. I felt drained and angry that I’d made this problem myself by giving him a dummy from birth.
The children’s centre suggested I try the ‘Incredible Years’ and the ‘1, 2, 3 magic’ courses to help manage Jack’s behaviour. These really helped me and I was advised to let Jack have his dummy at night but only as a soother to help him fall to sleep. Once asleep, I would remove his dummy.
“After I’d had my third child, Lyla, I was determined not to give her a dummy unless it was at night to help her settle” said Millie. “If I had known what damage a dummy could do to a child’s speech, listening and communication development, and also their teeth, I would never have used one for any of my children.
Millie is warning other parents of the dangers of dummy use and is encouraging them to get their child to give up the dummy.
“It took Jack about six months to settle down after I removed his dummy but I would advise parents to stay strong, even if your child first refuses to give up the dummy,” says Millie. “If you cannot cope, get advice from your local children’s centre or attend a ‘Give your dummy to Santa’ event.”
As part of the ‘Drop the Dummy’ campaign Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s Speech and Language Therapy and Oral Health Promotion teams are encouraging parents to keep dummy use to sleep times only, from 6 months, aiming for them to be removed completely by one year to prevent longer-term speech and language and teeth problems. It is also recommended to wean children off a bottle to a cup by 6 months.
‘Give your dummy to Santa’ events are being offered at soft play centres on 14 December, giving advice to children and families on giving their dummy to Santa and giving children free goody bags. Visit us at:
- Little Drivers, Stapleford 10.00am - 12.00noon
- Jimmy Beans, Sutton-in-Ashfield 10.00am - 12.00noon
- Escape Play, Giltbrook 2.00pm - 3:30pm
- Playmania, Mansfield 1:30pm - 3.00pm
Children's Centres across the county will also be helping children to give up their dummy from 5 – 16 December. Visit www.nottinghamshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/sure-start to find your local children’s centre and get advice on dummy use.
For more information on speech and language therapy services visit www.nottinghamshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/speech-and-language-therapy-children