When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I swore that baby would never use a pacifier. Then, of course, my plan went out the proverbial window. My newborn daughter had to spend time in the NICU, and the nurses recommended a pacifier to soothe her when I couldn’t. I agreed, of course, and especially because I felt so helpless when she was in pain. But a year later my 1-year-old still used a pacifier and, to be honest, I was beyond embarrassed.
I actually learned to love her pacifier early on. I mean, if it wasn’t for that tiny green piece of silicone I would've had to breastfeed her all day long in order to keep her happy. It also helped her sleep at night, and it seemed to calm her down almost instantly. But when she approached her first birthday what was once viewed as necessary and even adorable by family and friends was suddenly a "problem."
Before I knew it, everyone was asking me why I was still "allowing" my daughter to use a pacifier. People felt the need to express their faux concern and wonder, out loud, if I was somehow hurting my child by letting her pacifier habit continue. But I had no idea how to wean her from her pacifier and, perhaps more importantly, I didn't want to. Still, with every nasty comment from my mother-in-law, a friend on Facebook, or a stranger at the grocery store, I grew more ashamed and worried I was doing the wrong thing.
While the outside judgment and shame was difficult to manage, I knew that my baby's pacifier was her lovey and I realized that she refused to sleep without one. It got to the point where she was so dependent on her pacifier that my partner and I bought a dozen, just in case she lost one, left one at grandmas house, threw one under the seat of the car, or dropped one outside her crib in the middle of the night.
Fear took over, and I thought essentially hiding my daughter's pacifier usage was the only viable option.
Before it was time for her to sleep I would create a halo of pacifiers around her body within arm's-reach, just so she would be able to find another immediately and not wake up. To be honest, I was as dependent on her pacifier as she was. It works for us. So, again, why was I so embarrassed?
Whenever we went to family gatherings, a well-meaning relative would inevitably tell me that their baby never needed a pacifier to stay calm. If I went to a mommy group, someone almost always asked what I had tried to rid my daughter of her pacifier, essentially gauging how much effort I had put into the weaning process. And whenever I dared post a picture with my pacifier-loving toddler on the internet, someone would ask, “When are you going to take that away?"
In every single instance, I never knew what to say. I guess I was just stunned that so many people seemed to care. And I couldn't pretend like these people's comments didn't hurt. I was a new mom who needed a supportive village, not a judgmental mob.
I also had no idea when or how I would wean my daughter off her pacifier. I thought I had completely messed up as a mom, or had somehow missed the window, because she was a 1-year-old with a pacifier. So to mitigate the judgment and shame I simply stopped posting pictures of her with a pacifier in her mouth. Fear took over, and I thought essentially hiding my daughter's pacifier usage was the only viable option.
I now know that different kids need different things, and parents should never be ashamed for letting their toddler use a pacifier if that's what the toddler needs.
As a peaceful parent, I didn’t want to take away her main comfort item, especially before she was ready. My daughter needed her pacifier at nap time, bedtime, and during stressful transitions, so I put up with people's rude comments and questions for almost three years. Three years of people questioning my parenting decisions, even though they weren't the ones who would've had to deal with a cranky, screaming toddler if I had taken her pacifier away.
Eventually, though, I knew I had to help my daughter wean off her pacifier. So when I got pregnant with her baby brother I limited her time with her pacifier to when she really needed it. I tried skipping it once or twice at bedtime or in the car, and I even told her that the pacifier fairy would come and bring her a toy if she gave them up. I cut a hole in the pacifier tip so it would make it less appealing, but none of it worked. She still wanted, needed, her comfort item.
Eventually I just stopped buying them. I placed her remaining pacifiers in her crib, and when she lost last one I just told her that they were all gone. To my surprise, she picked up her baby blanket and started snuggling that instead. And that, as they say, was that.
The entire ordeal was still embarrassing and taxing and stressful, though, so when my son was born I kept him away from pacifiers. That, it turns out, was a mistake. I became his pacifier for eight solid months, and even now he still needs to be toughing me in order to fall asleep. He's 5.
My point is, pacifier-shaming needs to stop. I now know that different kids need different things, and parents should never be ashamed for letting their toddler use a pacifier if that's what the toddler needs. It's perfectly OK, it's pretty damn typical, and I shouldn't have felt embarrassed about it.
Neither should you.