pacifiers are back


The only one of my children who ever used a pacifier was my oldest, Cooper. He was an early adapter and remained extremely attached until his third birthday, when I snipped the tips off them and convinced him that his big boy three-year-old teeth were putting holes in his “dadies,” as he called them. He went to sleep, without any tears, and gave them all to Santa at the mall that weekend. End of story.

My other two just never took to the pacifier, much to my dismay. A pacifier is a wonderful thing: for traveling, for teething, for all those times your little one needs help settling down. Still, I didn’t miss the pursed-lip reaction I would get to my son in his stroller, chilling with his dady. A thumb-sucking baby is fine- adorable, even. But there are many out there who judge pacifier use. At least up until now.

First, studies linked pacifiers to a reduced risk of SIDS. And this week, another study, saying that pacifiers do not have a negative impact on breastfeeding, as had been previously believed.

Now there are some, like the very dedicated mothers on this message board on mothering.com, who are taking issue with this study. They say that of course a baby that is offered a pacifier will eventually come to accept it as a substitute for a breast, and that that perforce must mean an early end to breastfeeding.

I disagree. I think a pacifier can prolong how long a mother chooses to breastfeed. If you have a colicky newborn who needs to suck 24/7, your nipples can’t take it. I speak from experience. If Cooper didn’t also accept a pacifier, I might not have made it through those difficult first few weeks. But we did, and I went on to breastfeed him for a year.

The standards that the pro-breastfeeding enthusiasts (the “uber-boobers,” I have heard them called, and sometimes by the uber-boobers themselves) set for themselves, as nursing mothers, are exceedingly high. And while I am certainly impressed by someone who can make nursing her child the 24/7 center of her life, for a FEW YEARS, I am not that person. I needed a haircut once in a while. I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a restaurant for grownups. Once in a while, I wanted to be able to leave the house alone for more than 20 minutes.

The pacifier makes all that possible. (So does the thumb, if your children are so inclined; mine could never be bothered.) I think most moms feel that their baby coming to accept a comfort that is not one of their actual body parts, by six months or so, is a wonderful thing.

If we say to new mothers that breastfeeding is all or nothing, I think we risk losing a lot of them after ten days. If we say, this isn’t absolute- you can offer a pacifier, or a daily bottle, and still be a good mother, and still keep nursing- I think more mothers will keep going. It worked great for me, three times, and I made it to a year with all three of my kids.

So today I say, hooray for the pacifier. You have been unfairly maligned. A pacifier doesn’t have to destroy a nursing relationship. It just might save it.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

kristirufener May 7, 2009 at 2:32 pm

OORAY from Kristi in Wisconsin! The uber-boobers be damned!

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Pixiepurls May 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I was glad I trusted my instincts in the beggning, DD had a horrible latch and we just gave her formula from a bottle when needed and I pumped, she basically destroyed my you knows so I had a very hard time getting milk out in the beggning, and 1 or 2 weeks into it we gave her a bottle of formula or BM each night, DH would do bottle duty once each day or evening to give me a break. I NEEDED to rest! It also gave him some time with the baby. It never effected my feeding in any negative way. I also gave her the paci but she wanted the paci far more AFTER I stopped BF’ing (1 year when I went back to work) before that it was not something she “had” to have and now she asks for it far more (20 months).

She sort of weaned herself at 1 year. Once I went down to 3 times a day we both where very happy, but then I went to 2 to see if I could continue while working doing it morning/night but she lost interest and I seemed to have less in me. She couldn’t have cared less. By that point I had gotten her to take a sippy cup of water or organic milk, so she was not on forumula and didn’t have a bottle to want or ask for.

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Anonymous May 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Wow. You know there has been a lot of negative press on breastfeeding as well as a lot of negative name-calling between women (whether its formula feeders vs. breast feeders or working moms vs. stay at home moms). Honestly, it just needs to stop. I think your post could have gotten the point across without the uber-boober remark. I nursed my daughter until she was three because that’s what worked for us – it doesn’t work out for everyone. And can you believe I was able to get a haircut, go out to an adult restaurant, leave the house by myself and work outside the home??!! That paragraph was just ridiculous and petty.

Signed – Proud Uber-boober

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Marketing Mama May 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm

I was VERY worried about nipple confusion because all the books told me to be cautious about introducing a pacifier or bottle early on.

Turns out my babies both took to pacifiers very well and never developed nipple “confusion” or “preference” as some people call it.

I am definitely a hard-core breastfeeding advocate – and surprise myself that my daughter is still nursing at 16 months, despite me working full time. She’s never had a drop of formula… but she has more nukies than I do pairs of shoes.

God bless pacifiers and god bless boobs.

(I took the point of this post as being ENTIRELY pro-breastfeeding.)

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Amy May 7, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Hear hear! I don’t know what I would have done in the early months without a pacifier. The day I realized that my son was done with his paci (only three short months in) was a sad, sad day for me. I had to find a new boob substitute (which turned out to be my pinky, for four more months, til he found his own thumb, happy day!)

Anywho, all that was just to say that I let my kiddo use a few different “nipple substitutes” and found no adverse effects (but quite a few good ones). We are still going strong at two and a half years, and I don’t know that we would be without the relief those substitutes provided in the early days.

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Jessica May 7, 2009 at 9:54 pm

My DD has never taken a binkie. I was kind of disapointed, but she did find her thumb and still likes it to this day (34 months). It was nice that we never had to wean off a binkie.

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Amy May 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

P.S. To the so proud, anonymous Uber-Boober.

I proudly breastfeed my two and a half year old and I don’t find this article offensive at all. There is a lot of pressure to do it all and do it “the right way” from day one. A lot of lactivists are very much of the all or nothing mindset, and are very judgmental about any sort of alternate feeding. I’ve even heard some of them decrying pumping because it “disassociates the mother from the child” and leaves the child “starved for human contact”. And anyone who has a kid has at least once heard a formula-feeding mom being castigated by some militant breast-feeder that thinks she loves her child more than anyone else loves their own because she doesn’t feed her kid out of a can.

If you did indeed breastfeed your daughter til she was three (kudos to you for that, by the way) then you should know from personal experience that in some ways it is a personal sacrifice to do so. Until your kiddo is going at least 12 hours between nursing you can’t have a glass of wine with dinner for fear of intoxicating your baby. You can’t ingest anything at all, actually. When my son was about nine months old I had a severe staph infection in my throat and none of the medicines that would give me relief from the pain were compatible with breastfeeding, so I went without. I took only the antibiotics and suffered through a week and a half of intense agony because I didn’t want to put any weird chemicals into my baby through my milk. A lot of your time is scheduled around nursing, and you can’t just get a sitter unless you found a way to leave your boobs at home while you go out that you never shared with the rest of us. (And don’t even get me started on the hell that is pumping!)

So yes, it is very demanding to exclusively breastfeed a child. You do have to make personal sacrifices if you want to give your child that gift. They’re worth it, of course, but to say that it’s easy, or that we don’t have to put ourselves second to do so greatly undervalues the commitment and dedication that goes into it.

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Miney May 8, 2009 at 4:00 am

I breastfed my oldest son for a year. He was a fairly fussy baby, and really wanted to be sucking on something all of the time. The lactation consultant at the hospital was adamant that breastfeeding babies could not have a pacifier until after a month of successful breastfeeding. I waited that month, but it was awful! To get him to sleep, I’d have to offer my finger, and he would wake up as soon as I took it out. I remember times of attempting tricky finger switches with my husband so I could take a bathroom break!

My younger son took a pacifier right away, and had no problems breastfeeding. He actually was much better at it right off the bat!

About the debate between breastfeeders and non-breastfeeders, I think people really need to realize that different things work for different people. Some mothers really want to breastfeed, but it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. It’s none of my business why you do or do not breastfeed.

Ultimately, a happy mother who does not breastfeed is going to be a much more attentive mother than a miserable mother who does.

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Anonymous May 10, 2009 at 1:59 am

For all my intentions to only breast feed both of my children, life got in the way. When my daughter was 5 days old, I was in a (very bad) car accident that put me in the hospital, not even knowing that I had given birth (I thought I lost my baby). I had memory problems for 2 months, couldn’t be left alone with my daughter, and was in a skilled nursing center to rehab my back and legs for 6 weeks. Fast forward 10 years, and I gave birth to my son, who was admitted to a NICU before he was 12 hours old, unable to sustain his oxygen levels to even drink from a bottle, much less a breast. He had to remain in an isolet. His first bit of breast milk was given through a medicine dropper, then a bottle, then, when he was strong enough, the breast. He was given a pacifier in those early days so he wouldn’t forget how to suck. Once he latched to the breast, we had no problems, and he was always able to switch from breast to bottle without a problem.

I understand what you mean when you say uber-boobers. I was with a friend in the mall, I was nursing, she was bottle feeding her foster child. An uber-boober walks up to us, and says to me, while casting my friend evil looks, “It’s so wonderful to see a BREAST FEEDING mother.” Anyone who denies that there are women out there that judge all others as failures or incompetent or selfish if they don’t do it “their way” is lying to themselves.

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