ControverSunday: Pacifiers and other comforts


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It’s that time again! Thanks to Perpetua for her great hosting of this bloggy thing (and a big thanks for letting me guest host last week- it was a blast) and thanks to Accidents for the spectacular badge, as always.

Here’s the thing. I get the argument against pacifiers. And I don’t disagree. I totally buy that they can have a negative impact on nursing. I can totally see how a kid can get addicted to them. I hear the critics who say that they already have a built in one: their thumb. Yes, they are a pain when a baby can’t sleep without one but constantly spits them out, putting parents (ahem, Moms) on all night pick-up-pacifier-patrol. I totally agree that sticking a soother in a screaming baby every time they cry doesn’t allow you to really listen to what they need. Babies need to express themselves and crying is a part of that. Yes, yes and yes.


The darn things work.* And, especially in the first couple months of parenting…. I care more about doing whatever works that buys me a little more sleep and a little less crying. I believe in survival parenting…. whatever gets you through the day/night. No shame.

Where am I going with this?

I want to talk about the difference between parenting for the short term or the long term. I think this is an important topic in parenting and one that we often don’t address. There are a ton of parenting theories out there and parts of all of them are great. But the truth of the matter is that when you have a 8 week old baby, crying their head off for 4 hours straight and you haven’t had more then 2 hours sleep at a time for, well, 8 weeks…. theories don’t help you much. They are great, they have value, but they aren’t going to hold your baby for you so you can go take a nap.

Truth be told, I don’t think a lot of our choices matter as much as they seem to. Pacifier or no, co-sleep or crib sleep, CIO or No-cry, bottle fed or breast fed, stroller or sling…. if you walk into a class of 5 year old’s you couldn’t possibly sort them based on the choices their parents made. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying choices don’t have impacts, consequences, positives and negatives. BUT. I think it is more the big picture things that matter: love, patience, kindness, trust, acceptance, comfort, respect, consistency. You know, the big things.

On the other hand… short term parenting has its troubles. For example, if you buy your kid a toy to end a tantrum every time you go to the store… Or cave to that extra candy every day to bribe a kid to clean their room. Or let your 3 year old stay up 2 hours past bedtime every night, despite how cranky and tired they are. We are all human, we will all give in sometimes. But every time? Sometimes you have to make the tough choice in the short term in order to get a better result in the long term. Sometimes the tantrum is worth it because the short term fix causes an even bigger issue in the long term.

The problem is, when do you do what you need to just to get through and when do you parent for the long term? Which situations call for which approach?

I don’t know, I just know. My gut tells me which is which. And sometimes my gut is wrong. But I never claim to be a perfect parent.

So what does that have to do with pacifiers? Pacifiers are totally a short term/long term parenting problem. However. You don’t know if your kid is going to be the one that wants to use a pacifier until they are 6. Or if it will be no big deal to take it away in a couple months. So do you suffer short term on the possibility that it will negatively impact the long term?

I don’t know.

We gave A a soother at about 10 weeks (I don’t quite remember to be honest). We did have it in our heads to not give her one. But I caved. Because it worked. We knew to wait until ‘breastfeeding was established’, but as regular readers know… that boat never really sailed. We waited a while anyway. Regardless, we have always tried to be careful of over using it. A is a pretty happy baby for the most part and was never one prone to long crying bouts. So we reserved the soother for bedtime or nap time. That has kinda gone out the window lately with the transition to the day home, where it was beneficial to use her comfort item a bit more, but that will go back to normal soon.

Along with the soother we introduced a ‘lovey’ when A was about 2 months old. Honestly? Best thing we ever did. The soother probably needs to go sometime soon, but that lovey? She can keep it until she is 10 for all I care. She loves it. When she cry’s we go and get it and it calms her right down (along with hugs from Mom and Dad). Again, we use it mostly for bedtime, nap time and times of high stress (traveling, transition to day home, ect.).

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, whatever works. I know some kids who’s parents regret ever giving them the thing, but we all make choices we regret. The problem is that it is impossible to tell if you are going to regret that choice. So I say, go with your gut. And if it starts being a problem, then try taking the thing away.

We are right at the point that I think A needs to let go of the soother. As I said, we have been pretty flex lately as she has transitioned to spending her days at the day home. I felt she needed that extra comfort. But in the next couple months the soother is going bye bye. Honestly, I don’t think she needs it. About a week ago, due to a mis-communication between my husband and I, she went to the day home sans soother and she was just fine. Nap time was fine. So I think she is ready. First we are going to separate her soother from her lovey. Then we will get really tough on the whole ‘only at bedtime and nap time’ rule. And then the soother will make its exit. Wish us luck!

* Opps! Forgot to put the obligatory caveat- let me try that again. The darn things work. For A. Maybe not your kid. Every kid= different. There. Now I feel better.

10 responses to “ControverSunday: Pacifiers and other comforts

  1. Brooke April 11, 2010 at 7:48 am

    I wrote about something similar. It’s finding a balance between a short-term solution and developmentally appropriate solutions. In special ed we call this scaffolding. Give them a ton of support in the beginning and then gradually pull back until they are able to do it themselves.

  2. Perpetua April 11, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Long term and short term: excellent point. E seems to be not too attached to the pacifier, but I wonder if that will change as time goes on (good argument for phasing it out, I think).

    And I agree with you that these little choices probably have a lot less impact than we think they do, whereas overall home environments have a great deal more to do with how things turn out.

    And as for phasing out the soother, I think you guys are going to be just fine. 🙂

  3. Bree April 11, 2010 at 8:07 am

    We’d needed a soothed (and still wants it at 3) but Nora spits it out. Wes didn’t take to a lovey until he was two, and even now he can sleep without Sock Monkey with little fussing. Nora doesn’t have a special lovey yet but unlike Wes she seems to love rubbing her face in soft fabric, so I thunk she may end up with one. Nora was a finger-sucker from early days, but Wes was never interested. Just goes to show that kids are different and you really can’t say ahead of time what they will need for comfort when Mom is not there.

  4. ironicmom April 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I think it’s an individual choice. For me, I think it helped my breastfeeding. My son, who doubled his weight by two months, had trouble settling at night. He wanted to nurse forever, even when he was full. It was the sucking he needed. The pacifier (or dummy, as we called it) saved us all from insanity.

    I still remember when my twins shared a bed, my daughter would steal my son’s pacifier, certain it was better than her own.

    They eventually used them for nighttime only, and then when it was time, we “mailed them to babies who might need them,” a lie, but a nice enough one.

  5. Megan April 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Totally agree with the short-term/long-term thing. Caving in to every tantrum will have long-term consequences, but if we are careful, a pacifier probably won’t.

    Great post!

  6. Ginger April 11, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I love the idea of short/long-term parenting decisions. Because you’re right, sometimes you have to do stuff to just get through the moment, and overthink this stuff sometimes (and some of us to the point of anxiety), and yet it’s not always worth the agony.

  7. Partial April 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    The one thing I just noticed today is that Squirrel LOVES water. Are we counting baths as soothers? It’s definitely still a soother for me. I was freaking out about tomorrow’s swimming lesson with her, now that she’s in hard-core teething land, but I gave her a bath today and it was the ONE thing I could do to calm her down. Clean children are socially acceptable too. Win Win!!

  8. Nadia January 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Well, now I don’t feel that bad that Milla has not been accepting soother nor I knew of a lovey. She has so far been good so far, very happy and when not, is because she is experiencing a growth spur or one of those brain leaps.

    All this time I was jelous of those kids who took the soother and went quiet immediately, but considering that Milla has never been crying non-stop, I guess I am lucky that she never did. Damn, I just both two more models to try. LOL

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