Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Pacifier

And no, I ain't talkin' about the cinematic masterpiece that Vin Diesel recently put his name to...I'm talking about the love/hate relationship between parents and those tiny silicone bulbs around which our infants' lives revolve. Okay, perhaps that's overstating things a bit, but I have noticed that among the Parenting Ideology wars about which I've blogged previously, there is substantial disagreement about pacifiers. One camp says that they're okay, you're helping kids who are efficient feeders to get the extra sucking they need and the other camp says that you're hindering nursing, abandoning them to a soulless plastic substitute and telling them they're unable to help themselves.

I have a number of friends who, when they see my son's pacifier, kind of sniff and explain blithely that their child wouldn't take a pacifier. For some of them, I don't doubt this: if they offered the paci at all, the kid wasn't interested, so they decided not to push the issue. I can respect that.

But there is a strident minority of folks who say this who really appear to be saying, "I know it's not PC to tell you that a pacifier is evidence of terrible parenting, so I'll just say my kid wouldn't take one and give you my best, pity-filled, condescending smile." I find this rather passive-aggressive approach to be mildly amusing, mostly because I was fiercely anti-paci before the Bug joined our happy home. I had heard pacifiers (dummies, binkies, noo-noos, nuks, whatever you wanna call 'em) interfered with breastfeeding and could even foster addictive behaviors (one gem I love: I heard a woman call the paci "the child's first cigarette." Oookay.). So we refused 'em in the hospital and just let Davis suck on our fingers (you will recall that one of my early breastfeeding gaffes was to let Davis nurse for 30 minutes on each side, which was--literally--a blisteringly bad mistake, so after that incident until my milk came in, I couldn't let him breastfeed for very long for fear that the pain would make me stop breastfeeding entirely). On night two home from the hospital, we caved, found the blisterpak of pacis a friend had passed along to us (because, of course, her daughter "just wouldn't take a pacifier") and tried it out.

Wonder of wonders, he loved it. It got so that even as a newborn, he would crane his head forward when he saw it coming. Even now, he'll take them from other babies if they get near enough. We've tried not to use it as a "shutter-upper" but I'll confess, sometimes that happens. Usually, he'd suck on it to go to sleep and then spit it out. I don't think it ever interfered with breastfeeding--he'd usually spit it out if he wanted to feed, and when he turned out to be over 15 lbs at 2 1/2 months, we stopped worrying that he wasn't gaining enough.

But the fact that the kid is now mobile gives me a whole other layer of appreciation for the paci. If he's got it in his mouth, he can't
(a) eat grit, cat hair, stray buttons or other floor pflug
(b) chew up/lick the ink off of pages of the magazines he's fond of ripping out or
(c) bite the cats (not a concern yet, but I'm always looking ahead)

So suffice it to say that being a paci-friendly family has made the transition to crawling much easier on several levels. Which is why I almost went into cardiac arrest when my husband casually suggested the other day that he'd like to start weaning Heavy D from the pacifier.

He has good reasons: it's pain to have One More Thing you must absolutely have in the diaper bag before leaving the house, and we don't him to be one of those four-year-olds with a paci (though I sucked my fingers until I was eight), but I'm terrified of thinking about the weaning process. One benefit people always mention in the great thumb/pacifier debate is that "well, you can always take a paci away," but that seems kind of wrong somehow, to take something away that's such an obvious source of comfort. My friend took her daughter's pacifiers away cold-turkey when the kiddo turned one and she never seemed to miss them, but I dunno. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of Supernanny (actually, I've only seen two, but one of them was the one where they have to wean these 3- and 5- year-olds off of their dummies, and it was heartbreaking).

I'm still mulling this one over. I've grown so used to the pacifier as one of the staples of Life with Baby and laziness has led me to all but stick my fingers in my ears and shout "La, la, la" whenever there's talk of trying to cut back on the paci-dependence, but I know he needs to give it up eventually. Any thoughts?