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The Pacifier Is Our Friend… Still

Laszlo, asleep with the pacifier while on vacation in Mexico.

When I was pregnant, Joel got some overly simplistic advice from his high school friend who had just had a baby:

“He said it’s all much more manageable than he thought. All you have to do is put a pacifier in the baby’s mouth and everything’s okay!”

I told Joel we were not going to use pacifiers, ever. I wanted to have a dignified baby. I did not want him to end up sucking on a pacifier in Kindergarten. I did not want to deal with taking it away from him someday.

Then I gave birth and newborn Laszlo would not stop crying. A few drops of colostrum wasn’t enough to satisfy this kid? I didn’t like staying in a hospital either, but you didn’t hear me crying about it. (Actually, I did cry about it. There seemed to be a 24 hour conspiracy against letting me get any sleep. Eventually, I broke down in tears).

The hospital provided us with one of those newborn pacifiers and I thought, “Fuck dignity. Let’s shut this baby up.

I was bleeding profusely, completely sleep deprived, and I had come to the realization that I was going to have a purple-skinned, screaming, cone-headed creature attached to my nipple for the rest of my life. (At least, it felt like it was going to be the rest of my life.)

Some babies cry a lot. For no reason. Laszlo was one of those babies for at least a year. He’d been fed, he’d slept, he’d been burped, bounced and held. When all of his needs had been met and he was inexplicably crying, the pacifier solved his discontent.

Over the past few years, the pacifier has been a dear friend to me. And to plane loads and train loads of people who were stuck with us. The only reason I can brag that Laszlo has barely cried on a flight is because of pacifiers. He almost never slept on the plane, so the pacifier was the only way to keep him, well, pacified.

And then last summer, we were on a train in New York visiting family. Laszlo was sitting next to us, wide awake with a pacifier in his mouth. I saw a boy on the train who looked like he was about 4 or 5 years old, with a pacifier in his mouth. “We have to get rid of the pacifier before THAT happens to us,” I thought… “...After this trip.”

For more than a year I’ve been saying I will get rid of it “after this trip.” But now that Laszlo is 3 ½, I figured that we were long overdue with getting rid of it. My pediatrician had said I should have gotten rid of it by age 2.

I decided to ask my friend with 3 ½ year old twins how and when she plans to get rid of it. She lets her kids use the pacifier for sleeping, too. (Aside from when we travel, Laszlo only uses the pacifier at night).

“I’m not going to get rid of it until they’re ready,” she said.

“But doctors say it messes up kids’ teeth and you’re supposed to get rid of it before age 2.”

She said, “My husband and I both had braces. I assume my kids are going to need them, too. So it doesn’t matter.”

Huh. I hadn’t thought about that. Both Joel and I had had braces too, so probably Laszlo was going to need them, too! Yes, it’s messed up that for a minute there I was actually happy about the fact that Laz is probably destined for braces, because it meant I might have an excuse to just keep using the pacifier anyway.

I decided to ask Laszlo’s dentist what to do. When I took Laszlo in for his 3 year check-up, I told him that Laszlo really just used the pacifier at night and I asked if I should get rid of it. Then he told me everything I wanted to hear. He said that it would be okay for Laszlo to use it while he sleeps, until he starts getting his permanent teeth in. Toddler teeth are still malleable and it’s the permanent set that you have to be more careful with in terms of their position setting in. He said most kids decide to get rid of it on their own sometime before the new teeth come in, anyway. Usually they ditch the pacifier on their own before age 5. In his experience, kids start to realize that it’s a baby thing, and they want to get rid of it. He said that if you get rid of the pacifier before the child is ready, he will start sucking on a finger and then you have a worse problem, because you can’t get rid of your kid’s finger.

It’s a few months later, and Laszlo shows signs of getting rid of it on his own soon. After we spend time around babies, he says he’s going to give his pacifiers to the baby. (Of course, he changes his mind around bedtime, but he’s getting there.)

Last weekend, we went on a long drive and he didn’t even ask for the pacifier. He fell asleep in his car seat without it.

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