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The Great Pacifier Debate: One Mom Ponders When To Wean Her Child Off Of It

by Jenna Stewart
Jenna lives in Vermont and is behind the blog Motherhoodwithatwistofocd.com.

The pacifier, also known as a paci, soothie, binky, nuk, or in my case, “Sally,” evokes very strong feelings in people everywhere. It’s easy to judge parents whose school-aged children walk down the street with a pacifier in their mouth, but that is the extreme, not the norm. For most, it is just a beloved object that helps babies and young toddlers navigate this big, sometimes chaotic, world.

What is the harm in that?

Before kids, I had endless amounts of time to do my research (along with other things like sleep, painting my nails, or styling my hair). I read so many conflicting opinions about the use of pacifiers, mostly against them, with a few positive reviews sprinkled in, which I could only assume were left by sleep-deprived mothers on a high from getting four consecutive hours of rest.

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The reasons against them are valid: They could hurt their teeth, they could negatively affect the baby’s ability to nurse or take a bottle, the baby could become dependent on them… the list goes on and on.

So when I had my first baby, I was dead set against ever using one. I went to great lengths to avoid them, including almost tackling our nurse in the hospital when I saw her approaching the baby’s crib with a pink soothie in hand.

I reacted like she was about to give our sweet child a cigarette, instead of a tool to self-soothe postpartum hormones (which are no joke, people). Luckily, the nurse was a good sport. I’m guessing she has seen all kinds of crazy in the maternity unit, and my outburst was just a drop in the bucket. I’m also confident that she was downright impressed at how fast I got out of bed, seeing as how I had just experienced a natural birth only a few hours prior.

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Luckily for us, our firstborn found her thumb before she even opened her eyes. She has happily self-soothed herself through tantrums, boo-boos and bedtimes for the last four years. It has been amazing, though I sometimes worry that my sweet little girl will turn into a teenager who still sucks her thumb when she gets upset. Another story, for another time.

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For now, here we are with baby number two (I guess he is a toddler now), who is so in love with his “Sally” that I can’t ever imagine taking her away from him.

Sally has been everywhere with us: The farmer’s market, bike rides, sledding, skiing, and most recently, the water park. Let me tell you, it’s all fun and games until Sally goes for a swim in the lazy river. Then, all hell breaks loose.

Courtesy of Jenna Stewart

We have slowly been trying to transition Sally to be a sleep-time friend. I mean, kids keep blankets well into adolescence. I don’t really see a big difference between a blanket and a pacifier, but somehow the latter creates much bigger feelings.

That being said, I am a sucker for my son’s pouty lip and eyes; I give in if he sheds just one lonely tear down his cheek when he is sad, hurt, or just wants to snuggle.

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So, here we are: my goal is to have Sally scooped up in the middle of the night by the “pacifier fairy,” on the eve of his second birthday.

In the meantime, how do I prepare my child for that kind of loss and devastation? How do I prepare myself for the nights of endless crying after blissful sleep for months on end?

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Give it to me straight people — is it time for Sally to go? Or, can she stay for just a little while longer? Honestly, I’m all ears!

For more from Jenna Stewart, visit Motherhood with a Twist of OCD and her Facebook page.