Pacifier addiction. Who needs it more, him or me?

During a recent appointment, the doctor said this was the summer for my son to give up his pacifier. 

“Tell your son that he’s a big boy now. There are other babies out there that need his pacifiers,” the doctor said, in a kind but no-nonsense tone.

I smiled and nodded.

“We’ll do our best,” I said with a bright smile.

I was lying through my teeth. The pacifier fairy will not be coming to our apartment this summer, or for as long as I can help it.

This puts me in the minority on my playground, where I constantly hear other mothers bragging to each other: “Oh, my daughter never used a pacifier.” And “Well, my son had his binky, two, three months tops and then we took it away. And he’s perfectly fine without one.”

My son is almost two and has loved his pacifier ever since a nurse at our hospital gave him one in the NICU, where he spent two weeks after being born premature. As soon as my son left the hospital, he graduated to his second pacifier, a Nuk butterfly model that seemed to take up most of his face. I can’t count how much money I’ve spent on pacifiers since, but to me it’s money well spent.

Since he was born, my son’s pacis have served as a way for me to get him to sleep sooner rather than later. His pacifiers have helped him calm down during New York City subway rides and during rough transitions from home to daycare when he’s tired. The pacifier nips a kicking, crying, screaming toddler temper tantrum right in the bud. And my son automatically reaches for his pacifier when he needs something more than a book to read or some milk to drink or a playmate to hug. Why are people so eager to give up such a magic bullet?

It would make sense if there were strong scientific evidence that the pacifier was truly evil. But it doesn’t seem so bad.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund issued a statement that strongly discouraged pacifier use “because of [the] perceived interference with breastfeeding.” But other studies have found that once breastfeeding is established, pacifiers are helpful for babies who crave non-nutritive sucking. And in a 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association study, the conclusion was “that pacifier use is a marker of breastfeeding difficulties or reduced motivation to breastfeed, rather than a true cause of early weaning.” So in plain English, the pacifier didn’t cause the breastfeeding to stop. Moms who were going to stop breastfeeding anyway due to work or difficulties or other reasons, elected to use a pacifier as a transition.

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