Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pacifiers: To Use or Not To Use

Before my child was born, I was deadset against pacifiers. At the daycares, babies would drop them, spit them out, lose them, throw them, and even steal them from each other.  Worst of all, some would still cry with the pacifiers in their mouths. I used to think, What is the point of these things? The babies just want their mommas.

So I told myself and others I didn't want my baby having one. Besides, I was planning on breastfeeding and didn't want there to be nipple confusion or any replacement when she might need to eat. I decided I would be the one to pacify her whenever needed. This worked really well for nearly two months. But then... as she grew out of the newborn age, she stopped sleeping all the time. This included not sleeping in the car. And we found out she didn't particularly like the car. And boy, did she scream.

My husband and I used to take turns reaching back and letting her suck on our pinky finger. We said, though I don't know why we thought it made sense, "It's better than a pacifier!"

Well, after a few days of sore shoulders and one-hand driving, I realized maybe I was being silly. I had three choices. 1) I could let her scream and stick to my guns about not using a pacifier. This would mean risking my attention as a driver and somehow keeping myself from becoming upset, or 2) I could continue to reach back, still putting us all at risk in that awkward position, or 3) I could give her the pacifier and be done with it.

So we did. I have to admit, it was great. It also called for an ounce of humility as some people gloated over us "caving in." But I learned that I couldn't always be there to scoop her up and nurse her, as I had thought before she was born. I learned that sometimes you need to be flexible. For me, it's was not worth the bragging rights of, "We never use a pacifier for our child" when that child was screaming bloody murder in the back seat. She's not happy, I'm not happy, so what's the point?

Since then, the pacifier use has grown a bit more. (I'll go into that more in a few posts about sleep/naptime.) Sometimes I worry about her getting too attached to it or weaning her from it, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. At this age, my baby doesn't always need pacifier in the car. She'll talk to herself, play with it, wave it around, etc. It gives me a little hope that she's only using it when she needs it. It hasn't become associated with being in the car. For now, it's helping us maintain peace and happiness...and at this time in our lives, why wouldn't we want that?


Iluska Ikeda said...

Ah, if only Naomi would have taken a pacifier.... (^_^) I was never particularly against them (except for newborns because of the whole nipple confusion issue), but she refused any and all that we tried. Good for you for adjusting to the situation!

Natalie said...

Thanks for sharing! I love your blog. :)
First of all, I want to clarify that, just as with most of parenting, the pacifier "to use or not to use" decision absolutely has to be the mommy's decision. No one else can tell you that you should or shouldn't use them, or make you feel bad for using them (or not using them, as has happened to me).
My background was an absolutely, no pacifiers, ever, ever, ever. Finger-sucking was ok, especially when Dad or someone else had Baby because Mom was in the bathroom or something... or in the car, when you were sure that Baby wasn't hungry, and was just needing to suck on something. My mom felt very strongly that Baby's sucking need was a gift from God to further the mother-baby attachment, and also to contribute to natural child-spacing (the more baby suckles on the breast for both comfort and feedings, even if just for a minute or two, the longer fertility is usually naturally delayed.)
I was quite ashamed, then, when my fingers were so chewed up and raw from letting my first son constantly suck on them in the car (or listen to his ceaseless screams) that I actually had that pacifier in my hand in the store. Even though I know the cashier probably didn't think twice about it, I almost wanted to pretend it wasn't mine. I felt better knowing that my mother-in-law, another great advocate of attachment parenting, had resorted to using one in the car with one of her children. So we tried it. And we tried it with kid #2, and kid #3, all of whom usually cried in the car without a finger to suck on. But what it came down to was that they didn't know what the heck to do with it, and the only way they would use it is if one of us was holding it their mouth for them. So it saved a raw finger for a few minutes, but didn't save us from having to reach back to them anyway. Within a few months, they were totally uninterested and we were back to finger chewing or screaming anyway. I'm sure if there had been a real interest, and it had saved us a good deal of trouble in the car, I would have used it more in the car.
So anyway... in my own parenting world... I'd rather not have to worry about having to wean them from a paci one day, or take away times when they really want Mom-comfort, even if they're not hungry. I still adhere pretty much to my mom's thoughts, which are that I should take advantage of the desire God gave my baby to find his comfort at my breast, even if it is just for comfort and not because he's hungry.
Now, there are ABSOLUTELY times when I am like, ok, enough already! and have to pop him off because I know he's not hungry anymore, or he's just "playing" or whatever. And I DON'T think critically of moms who do use pacifiers! I can totally understand the appeal of finding something that works to comfort your baby, help him/her go to sleep, enable you to get more stuff done, etc. In some ways, it is more stressful not to use one because you do have to be at your baby's beck and call a lot more, and trying to get anything done around the house (or even go to the bathroom) is often pretty difficult. So I'm sure that some of my very-attached babies wouldn't be quite so attached if I actually "detached" them more, literally. ;) But then, it wouldn't be attachment parenting as I know it. (And obviously, that is going to be different for every mom.) Meanwhile, the more kids I have, the faster they seem to be growing up on me, and I realize that these nursing moments are going to leave me all too soon as it is.......
So really, what it comes down to is what every parenting decision should come down to... listen to your heart, and listen to your baby. :) If you're doing that, then you're doing a good job! Every mom is going to find different things that work best for her, and that's how it should be... moms certainly don't need criticizing for taking care of their families in the way that works best for them!

Natalie said...

(LOL - sorry that comment was so long... typed while nursing my VERY attached 21-month-old to sleep. ;) )

Third Eye Photography Idaho said...

My little one (now 2) was quite content nursing, then sucking in between when I knew she wasn't hungry. For about 8 weeks, that was the norm. Then, as I was transitioning from having to go back to work for a couple of short months, my baby started to feed (pumped milk)from a bottle. My husband got a promotion, allowing me to be at home for good. When I went back home full time, my little one became a little more reliant on the paci in the car, then also in between feedings. At this point, she wouldn't latch on anymore due to being fed from a bottle for a period of time. This was devastating to me, but she was still getting the best nutrition (IMO). The paci turned into the most wonderful thing for me to keep in the car, then I found I could hold my little booger to my chest and pop it into her mouth for a little extra cuddling since the little miss was not nursing. Then one day, she didn't want pacifiers anymore. Right around 9 months old, she was done. Maggie, I love how you emphasize that every family needs to do what they feel is right in their hearts. I have received some strange comments in the past, but reading your blog is great reassurance. ;)

DanandAmanda said...

I like your take on this topic, Maggie. I've told friends who ask for parenting advice that the only advice I'll give is to listen to your own intuition and block everything else out. A mother truly knows what's best for her baby.

Jasmine said...

I totally agree. Your blog is awesome.