My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judgmental looks started to come from other people, and they only got more numerous as my daughter became a toddler with a pacifier in her mouth. You know what I said to that? Bring it on. I won't apologize for giving my toddler a pacifier.
At this point, my daughter is no longer using a pacifier. She also won't be a toddler after the end of the month — she's turning 4 and I'm not crying, you are! With a little help from yours truly, my daughter gave up her beloved comfort object a few months ago and, fortunately, things have gone well ever since. Our pacifier stage is over, and even with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I regret absolutely nothing. I don't think I waited too long and don't think I did anything that requires even a sheepish explanation to anyone.
My confidence in my decision comes from two main issues: pacifiers are just not that huge a deal, and parents have enough really hard things to do that are a big deal and this was something that made certain aspects of my life easier, so I wasn't going to make it my hill to die on. And if you think this is me just making an excuse for my laziness, well... whatever. IDGAF.
Parents often get a lot of grief for letting their child use a pacifier "for too long" (whatever that even means). I don't know why but it really, seriously irritates some people. But here's why I won't be made to feel bad by them:
This Has Nothing To Do With You
For the life of me, I will never understand why people make this such a thing. There are some issues I can understand people getting passionate about, even if it's not their child, like spanking, car seat safety, and even nutrition. But pacifier use? Really? You're going to pour out time and energy over this one?
This isn't your kid, this isn't your life, and whether she uses a pacifier in no way affects you.
There’s Zero Consensus About What’s Best
Seriously, Google that you-know-what if you don't believe me. And it's not even, like, there's an overwhelming consensus and a few contrarians saying outlandish things. Because some experts say a baby should quit by 12 months, others say by 2 and no later, others have the goalposts somewhere before kindergarten. So it's not like there's a hard and fast rule on this one and y'all need to stop acting like your expertise trumps everyone else's. And the only long-term consequence all experts agree on is that kids who use pacifiers have an increased risk of an overbite.
The Worst Case Scenario Isn't Actually That Big A Deal
OMG, there's a chance my kid might have an overbite?! No!
You know who else has an overbite? This girl (and that's after years of orthodontia). You know who's literally never had the slightest issue in regard to her overbite, medical or otherwise? Also me... as well as the overwhelming majority of people who have overbites. In fact, barring extreme circumstances, overbites are slight and entirely cosmetic. They are also, more often than not, naturally occurring, so it's not like a pacifier is the only thing that can doom or save a person, either.
The American Dental Association Is Way More Laid Back About This Than Some Of You
As I said, lots of different people have lots of different opinions on this, but I found it interesting that the world's oldest and largest body of professionals dealing with oral health are, like, among the most lenient about pacifiers. And I quote:
If a child does not stop on his or her own, parents should discourage the habit after age 4 years. However, excessive pressure to stop can do more harm than good.
Seriously, they are clearly not super worried about this. You shouldn't be either.
It Buys Me Time, Peace, & Quiet
After my daughter gave up naps, I was nevertheless able to preserve the quiet time when she used to nap by allowing her "paci and a rest" every afternoon. She would lie down on the couch with her pacifier (and sometimes a TV show) and just chill for a while. Sometimes she'd even fall asleep. During this time I could actually get work done. It was good for me, it was good for her, and I wasn't too keen on the idea of this magical hour ending just because she was 2 or 3.
It Helps Them Sleep
It's like a magical sleep button at bedtime, people. Do you know what some parents would pay for that? I had one that I bought at the pharmacy for, like, five bucks. What kind of idiot throws that away for no good reason?
It Soothes Them
Sucking is a very natural way for little ones to soothe themselves. I don't exactly know how it works (I'm not especially soothed by sucking), but it does and that's not one of those things I have any interest in questioning too deeply. I just let it happen.
It's Not A Shot Of Tequila
I mean good God, people. At worst it's not a great habit, but it's not like I'm routinely giving something to my child that's going to hurt her. The way some people pearl-clutch over pacifiers you'd think they were made of asbestos and scotch (maybe an idea for a Mad Men line of baby items? I kid, I kid. Please no, corporations.)
It's A Work In Progress
I actually tried many times to get my daughter to quit her pacifier and, time and time again, she just wasn't ready. Now, I could have forced it, sure. A pacifier is (technically) easy enough to get rid of. But enough of the expert sources I read advise against cold turkey and I was OK with following that advice. (Other people find great success in the cold turkey method and power to them! But as I've said, there's no exact science here.)
What finally worked for us worked because it worked for us and because she was finally, at 3.5, ready to move on from her beloved pacifiers.
So calm down, people: whoever you're judging for giving a child a pacifier could very likely be working on it. But you know what? Even if they're not.