Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gateway Drug

I am a staunch proponent of pacifier use. It’s part of my parenting philosophy, which is to do whatever makes life easier now and let later worry about itself. (So far, that’s panned out really well for me; see previous posts.) When Bub was a newborn, he was rarely inconsolable, but he always wanted to cry – he had to be tricked out of it by madcap dancing elephants bobbing in front of his face or bubbly fish rocking back and forth in the Ocean Wonders aquarium until the phht phht phhht phhht of the bubbles relaxed his vigilance and allowed sleep to steal over him unobserved. When he awoke twenty minutes later, it was always with a scream of rage at the deception.

For those first four weeks, the pacifier was both friend and enemy – when nothing else would work I would slip it into Bub’s mouth and hold it there until that moment when he stopped struggling to spit it out: as he took his first few sucks, his whole body would relax and his eyes would drift shut. And then I would watch him sleep, nervously eyeing his tightly closed lips, while phrases like "bad latch" and "nipple confusion" rang in my ears as I flinched in anticipation of imagined pain, blaming myself already for compromising the breastfeeding relationship by failing to follow Dr. Jack Newman’s simple instructions. Good times.

One of the first milestones I celebrate with my babies is the four-week mark, when the embargo on pacifier use is lifted and the spectre of nipple confusion recedes. I cheerfully ignore the experts who suggest that pacifiers should be withheld for the first six weeks, and wonder sometimes if nipple confusion isn't just a bogeyman invented by the same people who suggest that breastfeeding mothers should avoid Tylenol, echinacia, and lanolin creams because there are no reliably conducted double-blind studies proving that they are safe (and, of course, all substances should be considered dangerous to the breastfeeding baby until proven otherwise). After four weeks, my babies have no-holds-barred access to their pacifiers, or soothers, as we call them in preference to my mother-in-law’s favourite term "the plug." That term always suggests to me that these devices are faintly disreputable, and disreputable for precisely the same reason that I love them so much: because they stop the baby from crying. Is that sentiment a hold-over from the days when doctors thought crying was essential for the baby’s lung development? Or is avoidance of the "plug" a badge of honour among mothers tough enough to parent without it?

Setting aside the vague atmosphere of disapproval surrounding pacifier use, the real bugaboo (in the pre-stroller sense of the word) is the end game. I’ve read bone-chilling tales about the de-tox process, and responded with my usual tactic: avoidance and denial. After Drs. Sears and Weissbluth wound up their six-month-long boxing match in my brain, I swore off both the baby-advice books and the long-term perspective they inculcate: it’s hard enough dealing with a night-waking baby without worrying about how his sleep habits and/or my inconsistent response to them will affect his long-term emotional well-being. Deal with the problem at hand, and let the future take care of itself – that’s my philosophy.

So I’m reckless with the soothers, attaching them to my babies with clips, littering them about the crib, popping them in whenever the Pie reaches out with that exclamation of "sooz!" that means either "shoes," "juice" or "soothers" depending on the context. And with the Bub, we got lucky: when he was two-and-a-half, he starting chewing through his pacifiers, so I tossed out the punctured ones and bought a new pack. He took one, gave it an experimental suck, and handed it back to me in disgust. He took the second one, repeated his test, and handed it back as well. Then he rolled over and went to sleep, and never looked back. Occasionally he finds one of the Pie’s pacifiers lying around and places it in her mouth with solemn care, but he would never dream of taking a swig himself.

So I’m not one to be put off by alarmist stories of nipple confusion, social disapproval, or twitchy three-year-olds begging for just one more hit. That said, I have been a little uncomfortable lately with the way the Pie wields her soother like a trendy accessory. As we read stories together before bedtime, she reaches up to pop out the soother whenever she wants to make a comment, punctuating her cries of "Kitty! Meow!" by waving it expansively in the air before casually putting it back in her mouth, letting it hang loosely for a moment and then sucking in deeply for a nice long drag. I can almost see the deeply-etched lines of Cigarette-Smoking Man’s face, hear her colluding with aliens to take over the planet. Anti-smoking advocates have raised awareness of the prevalence of tobacco advertising directed at children; have they given sufficient attention to the relationship between smoking and early pacifier use? And should I be taking away her soothers until a reliably conducted double-blind study proves that her cries of "sooz" will not be replaced fifteen years down the road by "Gimme another ciggy-butt"?


You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

44 comments:

Robbin said...

I am the proud owner of at least a dozen pacifiers, secreted at strategic locations throughout my house. My son had a pacifier since day 3 of his little life - provided BY my lactation consultant no less. Never problem with latch or confusion of any kind - he breastfed like a champ. As long has he doesn't go to kindergarten with a bright blue and orange ring hanging out of his mouth, I am good with it.

Andrea said...

I wish someone had told Frances that nipple confusion was just a myth. Would have saved us nine fairly agonizing months, in which she first refused to take anything that wasn't silicone and then, when she was persuaded that flesh was ok, refused anything else--including pacifiers. She's never used one, and not because I didn't try.

Bri said...

loved this post! I am often greeted by parents when they see my daughter with her soother say to me, (with so much disdain)"oh my son/daughter never wanted the pacifier". Yeah thanks for telling me.
I don't see any adults walking around with them so I'm pretty confident that my daughter will outgrow it.
Loved the ciggie comparison, that was hilarious to read!

Kristen said...

Given the Bub's self weaning, I'd stick with your current philosophy (which is obviously the same as mine given the fact that we waited until Quinn was three and a half to do anything about the paci!). Besides, the Pie is still so young (and so cute, by the way)...she's got time.

Of course, I say all this after having only just gotten over the trauma of the de-tox process over here. (But I really do think Quinn was an extreme case. And you know, even with that extreme, that first night was the only night with actual crying and horror. The following night, he asked abou the paci and moved on. For several days he woke up really early, but we seem to be moving back to normal now. So, really, for such an extreme scenario, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.)

penelopeto said...

I tried so harrd to give bee a pacifier, but she refused. now, she just treats the boob like a soother.(and i know what the books say about that!)

ah well; i'm all for path-of-least-resistence parenting. these issues are rarely worth the fight.

penelopeto said...

p.s. what's a beer without a cigarette, right?!

Anonymous said...

I say this not as "I'm better than you" but as "damn I wish that was my kids". They truly hated pacifiers...we had at least a dozen different ones, cause I would have loved to have the opportunity to pry my finger out of their mouth when they needed to suck. But no can do, no cheap imitations for my kids, they had to have skin and only skin. I too believe in the path of least resistance parenting style for the not so important things, so in my finger went whenever they needed to sooth. Of course, that could be why my kids have chanpion immune systems now, who knows?

Michele said...

I have two pacifier-addicts at my place. I used it for both of them from birth because my kids were born with nipple rejection. Would not latch, no way, no how, no matter what the LaLeche Gestapo said.

Now at 19 months they are only for the car and the crib. Which hasnt been hard to enforce, but every day when they get in the car at daycare they both reach for them and take long, hard sucks like a cigarette after an 8 hour flight. They do pop them out alot to chat, but they both want to continue holding them. At night if they are slow going up the stairs to bed all we have to do is say "Paci's!" and they hit it.

I think people worry too much.

ali said...

i am a huge pacifier fan.
i waited 3 days to give one to emily, 2 days to give one to josh, and Isabella had one when we left the hospital.
and i nursed all three JUST FINE. there was no nipple confusion to be had.

i took it away frm emily on her 3rd birthday. we discussed it every day for 3 months leading up to her birthday. she cried for 2 hours that night, and was totally fine afterwards. no problem. so, we decided to take josh's away at the same time - even though he was 20 months younger. i feared the worst and he was also totally fine.

i don't worry about isabella. she's going to be fine too :)

laura said...

I don't know if I'd agree that nipple confusion is a myth. I think that for the new moms who have babies that don't have a latch problem, it's easier to dismiss because it's not something they have to worry about. If your baby does have a latch problem, introducing an articifial nipple or pacifier can have a negative impact on milk supply before it's established. That's the downside, and from talking with the moms I know who have worn those shoes, it's not a happy place to be.

Another not-happy place to be is driving on the highway with a screaming two month-old who never ever accepted a pacifier. That one I can vouch for :)

Julie Pippert said...

I am a big believer in pacifiers and wish my kids agreed. I push pacis on them like I'm a dealer looking to improve my score.

To no avail.

They remained Lactivists.

shaking head

At least the elder had the thumb.

I'm admitting the little one to a Boobaholics Anonymous program. I hear the Twelve Steps are great for breaking addiction. I blame myself...it was the lazy and sure fix-it answer to every problem.

bubandpie said...

I should probably clarify that my nipple-confusion skepticism is directed more at pacifiers than bottles. This, after all, is from someone who had anxiety attacks every time the soother went in, and would NEVER allow a bottle near her babies until six months of age. Like so much baby advice, the nipple-confusion warnings tend to be slapped on, wholesale, as if women are incapable of assessing their own particular situation (quality of latch, milk supply, etc.).

Michele - That's hilarious. When taking the Pie up to bed I always say, "Let's go get your soothers and read some stories..." and for the Bub it's "Let's go see doggy and blankie!" (I think he transferred his comfort-seeking to doggy and blankie once he gave up the pacifiers - before that he could take them or leave them, but now they're so essential that I have nightmares about what would happen if we ever misplaced them.) And Pie supposedly gets her soothers only in her crib or carseat, but that rule is suspended whenever she actually sees one.

Mamalang - I've always wondered why we have to boil the pacifiers for five minutes but we can just stick our dirty, germy fingers in our newborn infants' mouths any old time we like...

sunshine scribe said...

I remember my mother lecturing me when I was pregnant never to ever use a pacifier. Like it would be worse than giving my baby a shot of heroin.

Like you I wanted my son to use it. I tried EVERYTHING and he would have none of it. I only wish he would have ...

Jennifer said...

I did wait *3 days* with my first, but my other babies all had pacis from Day 1. No nipple confusion (#3 is still nursing at 20 months) and yes, they were little addicts but...not one kid in my oldest son's first grade class still has a paci, so eventually they give them up. ;)

Anonymous said...

I was free and easy with the pacifier too. Oh, yes.

metro mama said...

Cakes is on the same track as Pie. They'll probably smoke pot too. Oh well, they could do worse.

Becky said...

Oh... I miss the Alexander Keith's beer. :(

But wait - that's not why I was commenting. Right. Soothers. I'm fond of that term, myself, although I find Newfies with their "dumtits" rather funny. No joke.

Poo-poo to those who say they're bad. They worked WONDERFULLY for us (well, Kai). They helped him relax, very visably, and that was all that we needed. We were also quite fortunate with the removal of the soother and the switcheroo with the other object. (We simply stopped giving him a soother when he was just under a year old, and he transferred his "need" to his friend Puddles.)

Also - is Lanolin safe? Well, without Lanolin, my cracked and bleeding nipples likely wouldn't have put up with being abused more than a week or two, so regardless of whether or not it is safe, it is VERY GOOD.

bubandpie said...

Becky - I was wondering when someone would pick up on the lanolin reference. I don't know which book it was, but I do know that after explaining the lack of studies proving lanolin's safety, the author concluded, "Why take the risk?" WHY? I sat there staring at that sentence for five minutes, thinking, "I'll tell you why!" and I know my answer was going to include the words "cracked and bleeding nipples."

nomotherearth said...

I tried and tried to get The Boy to take a pacifier, but no deal. He is a thumb-sucker extraordinaire. I worried about that for a while, but, hey, it makes him go to sleep and who am I to argue with a sleeping baby?? If I tried to take it out of his mouth, he would scream bloody murder. So I gave up and went with the flow. But thumbsucking is as much a no-no as pacifiers apparently. Random strangers tell him not to suck his thumb AND REACH DOWN AND TAKE IT OUT OF HIS MOUTH. If you want to see angry, look at my face when that happens.

The way I see it, he won't be sucking his thumb at 20 (will he?), so why worry now. It works. Good times.

bubandpie said...

Nomo - Are you serious? That's awful. The real up-side to the thumb-sucking is that the baby almost always knows where the thumb is (thus allowing you to forgo the enjoyment of getting up 3-4 times a night to pop in the missing soother). Neither of my kids ever had the slightest interest in their thumbs, so I have no basis of comparison between the two.

Mouse said...

Before our son was born, my wife and I said no pacifiers, no bottles. Within about a week, we tried a pacifier, but he refused it and always has; occasionally if he comes across one, he'll stick it in his mouth for a few seconds, though he's just as likely to try to get one of us to take it.

We held firm on the bottles for at least 6 or 8 weeks. By then, he had no interest. Silicon, plastic, Avent, Nuk--none of it. When I went back to work, he would drink maybe an ounce or two during the day for my wife, but mostly held out for my return. He was old enough to go without food for 8 hours at that point, but it meant our nights were less than restful.

We will definitely introduce a bottle earlier and with a higher flow nipple when we have the next one!

owlhaven said...

From my experience as an OB nurse for 10 years, some kids absolutely do have nipple confusion. It can be a huge and frustrating pain in the neck, esp to a mom who wanted to breastfeed but now is being rejected by her child.

I agree with you, however, that is is more likely to happen with a bottle than with a bink. Three of my kids had binks and all 3 of those kids were excellent nursers. We found binks to be extremely helpful!

Mary

Anonymous said...

Adam LOVED his soother or 'doo doo' as he later named them.

He was an addict from day one since the nurses who had him in observation gave him one.

We had a few rotating around the house and as each one got destroyed they 'disapeared,' except for the emergency one in the kitchen drawer.

But by around 18 months, 2 years he was totally off the doo doo.

Caity never liked them....we wish she did.

And my kids never had nipple confusion...there was a raft of other issues we were dealing with!

kittenpie said...

I held off till about 6 or 8 weeks, after I had given up and let her have my milk in the damn bottle, already. And soothers are for sleep times around here, after which they go into their "house" to rest. But I haven't worried about how to wean her from them yet, frankly. (I laughed as I read this because she has, on one hilarious occasion, resisted my putting it away and asked for "one more suck" before letting me snap it into its house. Ha!)I figure she'll either grow out of it on her own or I'll sort something out when I start thinking it's gone on long enough.

Anonymous said...

"Deal with the problem at hand, and let the future take care of itself – that’s my philosophy. "
Yes, that is my philosophy, too. Absolutely. I never even waited for the 4 week mark to use the pacifer--we started from day one, and no nipple confusion with either kid. The only rule I had for pacifiers was at 6 months, they go into the bed, and can only be used for sleep. My son gave it up on his own, and found his thumb instead (which he ALSO gave up on his own, at 2.5). My daughter had quite a love affair with her pacifier, so that I was afraid of the repurcussions when I took it away. BUt I did, at age 2, and we had about 15 minutes of protest and that's it.
Long live the pacifier, I say.

Anonymous said...

ooh, we have a pic of Swee'pea with an Alexander Keith's bottle too!

I subscribe to the exact same parenting philosophy. And don't worry; I never had a pacifier but I did suck my thumb and yes I pretty much gave up thumb sucking for cigarettes. You can't win.

I am very ambivalent about soothers. But still Swee'pea sucks away on it and we plug it in several times a day in an attempt to get him to sleep. Eventually it works. I'm not sure I'd repeat it with a second baby though because it's really annoying to replace it every half hour through some nights.

Oh - and about the rage thing. This morning I was at a parents workshop about infant development and there was a father there who mentioned that he's separated from the mom and only has weekend custody or something. When the educator mentioned what to do when you're feeling really angry (put the kid in a crib or playpen and walk away and scream into a pillor or whatever you have to do) he said, "But you should never really get to that place though." And I thought, "that guy has never spent very long with a baby or with a mother and baby. Unfortunately, the educator was too respectful to set him straight and I was too chicken.

Beck said...

My older two kids had soothers until they were two - neither had any big issues about giving them up, either. My third baby never took a soother, and oh how we encouraged her.
Soothers: I love them. Right now, I wish the older two still had them.

Terri B. said...

Love this post Bub and Pie! I especially liked the cigarette comparison. "Reliably conducted double-blind studies"! You know, they'd just revise the research later anyway so hooray for you not waiting. And you even managed to work in a bit of X-Files. Your post made my day :-)

Tina C said...

I totally agree about the nipple confusion conspiracy & pacifiers. i can definitely see the connection between thumb sucking & cigs. they tried everything to get me to stop sucking my thumb and cigs were the only thing that worked! just kidding. but on some days it feels that way...

Bobita said...

Oh how I loved this post! My daughter is a 3-year-old addict! (I also loved the linked posts...to which I deeply related!) I have tried to detox her twice...but I gave in when she slumped into a pathetic, writhing heap! I fear I have just made it much, much worse!

PS: I just received your mixed CD!!! It is difficult to articulate how much fun I have had while listening to it! My kids head-banged all the way to school this morning...their favorite was Quiet Riot! To which I responded, "I LOVE IT, TOO!!" Woo-hoo!

Thank you, thank you! I'm going to dedicate a post to you and the other participants very soon.

mad_hatter said...

Oh you positively slay me, you funny, funny woman! My girl adamantly refused the paci from day one. I tried everything to plug her wailing hole with it for the longest time, particularly on a 6 hour flight to see family when she was 6 months old. She would have none of it. No siree!! No oral fixation here, thank you very much, Mother. I'd rather WHAAAAAAAAAAAIIIILLLL!

Now I know you have seen documented proof of my daughter's beer bottle habit at 20 months. And she sucks on the Annie's organic cheddar rabbits as if they were a life-line. What next, I ask? I see cigarellos in her future.

Yep, it's another one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't parenting moments. BTW, did you ever read the Sweet Juniper sleep wars trilogy with Wisebluth facing off in the ring against Sears. It's the funniest bit'o'blogging I done ever read.

crazymumma said...

I wish wish wish my girls had loved pacifiers. But noooooo, no rubber or silicon for them.
As to smoking, ya, well...let them chew nicorette I say, Mummy needed some sanity;)

bubandpie said...

I started out thinking that this post would fall into the so-sue-me/shameful-confession genre, but now that I've seen the depths of Pacifier Envy that are lurking out there I'm starting to realize how intolerably smug I am with my beer-swilling, soother-sucking babies. Don't hate me because my babies took a pacifier! From now on I'll be more circumspect in my gloating!

Veronica Mitchell said...

I have always been a little envious of you pacifier users. There was no anxious decision for me to make; both my girls consired them an offensive substitute for the real thing, and howled if I tried to persuade them otherwise.

Instead, mine go for their thumbs. They never need replacement, but they ain't exactly easy to sterilize. And I can't exactly take them away, either. There are no perfect choices.

julia said...

Oh man, this made me giggle like a school girl.

When The Bug was going thru her Scream Every 8.3 Minutes phase, I went out and bought one of every single pacifier that Target sells. She likes the weird one. But The Boo, who's almost two, LOOOOOOVES her binky. She steals The Bug's right out of her mouth. The only way I've been able to stop her from walking around all day with one in her mouth is to tell her that if she has one in her mouth, she has to go to bed. Doesn't stop her from trying, though. Hoooboy, does she love her some binky.

Lady M said...

I've written about our little pacifier junkie too. I like the name "soother" - much better.

When I was pregnant, I had a lady tell me proudly that she never allowed her children to use pacifiers. The horror! I didn't say anything, but I knew that she used to smoke and has the occasional drink - so cigarette smoke and alcohol are ok, but the pacifier is out? Months later, she was watching Q playing happily and said, "I really don't know what the big deal was back then (when she had young ones). Pacifiers seem perfectly reasonable now!"

I've never heard about Lanolin being risky. Thank heavens, because I had enough to deal with those first weeks of breastfeeding.

karrie said...

I'm going to confess that part of the reason my 2 year-old still sleeps with a pacifier is because of how damn cute he looks with the little MAM bow in his mouth. (That and anything that helps him sleep more than 4 hours at a time is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Fuck Dr. Sears.)

Mrs. Davis said...

I didn't use one with our first son, but our second was a junkie. I swore I'd wean him from it by 6 months, then 9 months, then by the time he was walking, and then he just magically stopped needing it shortly after his first birthday. He nursed well until nearly 18 months.

Our family doc (mom of 4 herself) said she discourages them for first babies, but not so much for next babies. I understand why in my gut, but I don't think I could articulate it.

Lisa b said...

Newman is pure evil, sears is evil and weissbluth almost drove me to drink. All of those books added more to my stress than they helped me. I think your method is the only one that works - deal with the moment. Maybe my picky kid was destined not to take a bottle or soother but I always wonder if I had started earlier - like week two after the fatty had clearly shown she had a good latch- if things could have been easier for me.
Mothering is hard enough without all guilt and fear heaped upon us.
As for the risk of lanolin, my SIL is a LLL leader and warned me that LLL Canada does not endorse Lansinoh. I figure if they are going to endorse breastfeeding then they had better find something to help us survive it!
This nonsense makes me so frustrated. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Mary-LUE said...

I wonder if you had just type "Pacifier" with nothing else, what kind of responses you would get! Wouldn't that be funny, a series of one word, child-rearing related posts. I bet there would be more comments on those than anything else!

My son refused the pacifier. I think I was told to wait three weeks. His thrust reflex was so strong it would go flying out of his mouth! :)

I was going to wait three weeks with my daughter but my son could not wait to get that thing in her mouth. It was pretty cute. She took it for awhile but never as intensely as I've seen some kids take it. When we had sooooo much trouble getting her to sleep through the night, I took it away. She never seemed to miss it.

One thing I think is so cute is when a baby/toddler with a strong paci/thumb habit is sleeping without one. Invariably there mouths make these cute sucking motions while they sleep. It is too cute!

Shannon said...

I've been reading Dr. Sears, too, just to torture my self with my inept parenting really. My first child is still using the binky at nearly 3. I tell myself she won't take it with her to college, but she's mighty attached. My second child had a feeding strike when she was about 2 or 3 months old so nearly as soon as it had been introduced, the binky had to go (horrors!!!!). I tried to reintroduce it many, many times, to no avail, which means that in addition to having to nurse every time she's cranky, I'm forced to hover over her all the time because she puts absolutely everything in her mouth. You are a lucky, lucky woman.

lynsalyns said...

I'm late to the party here (back East for a week) but I BEGGED Emmie to take a pacifier. She wanted to sleep on the bottle, and refused all attempts at any kind of binky.

UGH. So I agree with your 100 percent here! :)

Anonymous said...

When was Pie drinking beer at my house? We must have been out having fun shopping. . .

Mother Bumper said...

First I have to say that photo is one of the best I've seen in a while - adorable!

I tried to get Bumper to take a pacifier right off the bat but she would have nothing, NOTHING to do with it. Seriously, I have this one photo with her using it and right after "click" it went "pop" right out and NEVER went back in (regardless of what I tried). I found one type of pacifier that she liked but only to chew and chomp on like a fat cigar (sigh) - pacify, it did not (more like one-minute-distraction). Anyhow, I can't stand it when I hear people ride parents who choose to use a pacifier. I say "WHATEVER WORKS!" (short of beer).

Once again, an excellent post and I've really missed reading you in my self-imposed blog reading exile. Oh Lucy, I've got some reading to do!