Paci. Dummy. Dum dum. Soother. Binky.
It’s been coined many terms but it still remains one of the most controversial debates of motherhood: to pacify or not to pacify?
I can’t say I was ever outright for or against the use of pacifiers. When I bought Liam’s first pacifiers I hadn’t really intended on using them. They were the fully silicone ones with a hole for me to put my finger through and I really bought them because they came in this nifty two pack and I was in that new-mummy shopping mode and I found them somewhat cute.
Don’t judge me.
Or maybe because I ordered a lot of Liam’s stuff online and while browsing baby items they just kinda popped up on my radar; I imagine it was an “Oh, I have to have these” moment followed by some irrelevant justification in my mummy brain. Either way, they were not a necessity.
That was until Liam came just over three weeks early and couldn’t latch. While we had to feed him initially with liquid formula in a spoon or from the rim of a cup, daily practice with my index finger in that silicone pacifier helped to strengthen his premature jaws and grasp the concept of latching to begin breastfeeding. After that, it was used for what it’s marketed for: soothing. For me, it wasn’t so much the aspect of the physical pacifier itself but the fact that I could stick my finger through that little hole and he’d technically be sucking on my finger. It was like a finger-glove; a sterile finger-sucking experience.
There was something oddly bonding about it.
Despite that, Liam eventually graduated out of the silicone pacifier and into orthodontic pacifiers. The ones with the pastel colours and baby-friendly images. I’m not ashamed to admit I often spent a while searching for a two-pack that had cohesive designs and colours. And yes, I colour coordinated them with his clothing every chance I got.
Don’t judge me.
As Liam got older, his needs for the pacifier changed. Eventually, I had him on a strict routine of only having it to sleep at night. Well, I thought it was strict. But with age, comes independence; once Liam could see it, he would use it. Also, since it was the only way I could get him to take his day nap at a decent hour, he would often have it once in the day. Obviously, as one would expect, this “plan” was not perfect and with many hands in the pot of raising Liam, pacifier use was not always so restricted.
Alas! At the age of two, I have finally and completely accidentally weaned Liam off his pacifier completely (He spent a week by his grandmother and forgot it in the car so I threw it away). It was not so much a seamless effort on my part, and I have to admit I didn’t really have to deal with the first week of withdrawals. Despite that, I still experience some of the mood changes that come with its absence.
Want to avoid all the drama? Here’s what to do.
Take it away early
This is definitely easier said than done. First of all, there’s the whole age debate on when it’s acceptable or age-appropriate for your child to be relying on pacifiers. I recognise that as children get older their need for pacifiers become more habitual. It’s just something they’re comfortable with. So, I can understand that taking it away early seems somewhat against the cause: are you not taking it away when they’re more likely to need it?
But will they die? No.
Allowing them to learn other soothing methods from younger, before their mind becomes independent enough to decide what’s soothing to them (my pacifier) and what’s not (stop singing to me), may help them to cut the habit faster.
Stop replacing lost or destroyed ones
Before I begin on this one, let me admit that any input I have on this matter is completely hypocritical.
Liam at his puny age of two had a total of 12 pacifiers.
Why? A number of reasons, actually. As I mentioned, I often bought Liam’s pacifiers in two-packs. Always need a backup. When Liam had finally chewed one of them to pieces, I would save the day with a brand new one, knowing that it was only a matter of time before he did the same with that one and I’d be at the cashier in the baby store with another two-pack.
In reality, I was simply not prepared to deal with the meltdown that came with his pacifier withdrawals, which I had witnessed before. I felt like always having two was doomsday preparedness; if I forgot one anywhere, I knew I had another.
When we traveled with him last year, it was even more difficult to curb the habit because it was his first trip overseas and his body clock was all sorts of messed up. From 2-hour flights, to 3-hour outings to an entire day at Disney and 7-hour car drives, the pacifier was the difference between Liam having a full blown meltdown and a peaceful Liam. It literally ruined every family photo. If that’s not bad enough, I bought four….. f o u r… pacifiers while I was overseas.
They were a steal.
Let me begin by saying, I would like to crown myself as somewhat of a pro when it comes to ignoring Liam’s tantrums. John, not so much. I believe the key is fully understanding that at his age, a tantrum is the only way he knows how to vent and show frustration, but I’m also not naive to the fact that Liam has his cues. Cue fake tears.
However, that said, it is also wayyyyyy harder to resist or ignore a tantrum when you know exactly what is causing it. When you’ve been resisting it for a difficult 10 minutes and the one thing that will end it is a mere two feet away on the table in all its plastic and silicone glory.
Don’t cave! Be strong!
When it came closer to the age I wanted to start really distinguishing and restricting Liam’s pacifier use, I started leaving it at home for short outings. Or any outing where he wasn’t expected to be trying to sleep. Unfortunately for me, toddlers don’t often have a schedule of when they want to have a full meltdown for no reason whatsoever. A meltdown which could more than likely be calmed with the use of a pacifier.
In these instances, I had to find distractions. Sometimes on the way home from school, Liam would start to act up so I would lower the car radio and sing nursery rhymes at the top of my lungs. Sounds simple enough, but it actually work. Liam would remain quiet, just long enough to hear a capella rendition of the “Incy Wincy Spider…” before acting up again. I would do this all the way home and he would survive the journey sans pacifier or meltdown.
While some platforms encourage going cold turkey and just taking the pacifier away, I encourage a more gradual process. Whether it be reducing the amount of use or amount of pacifier options, just like with any child development, a gradual journey to change allows for a more painless transition for everyone involved. While my methods were somewhat gradual to begin with, Liam’s transition to pacifier-less was in fact cold turkey. One minute he had it, the next minute he didn’t.
And he was miserable.
Bedtime or naptime was a chore and as time went on it worsened; most likely because he realised this was not a drill. His mood changed because he’s still too young to outright say he’s tired so he’d come to you ready to sleep but spazz when more than 10 mins had gone by and you hadn’t popped in his pacifier.
I was this close to calling an Intervention.
Liam has been pacifier-free now for almost a month and I’m pleased to say he seems to have gotten over the initial withdrawals. Of course, its affected his sleeping somewhat so he doesn’t take day naps anymore (what have I done??).
However you choose to do it, just remember, there’s no rush if your child has a serious attachment to their pacifier, especially for sleeping. If you’re lucky enough to find orthodontic ones in different stages, you may be able to save their teeth. They’re all going to fall out anyway.
Because people who say “they sleep like a baby”, usually don’t have one.