Pacifier wars

by DaniGirl on April 25, 2008 · 10 comments

in Baby days

Binky. Sucky. Nuk. Soother. Dummy. Paci. Pacifier. Suss. It has a million names, because it is legion. It is evil.

I have a love-hate relationship with the soother. Back in the day, when I was ignorant and childless, I decided that I’d never give one to my child. “You take an adorable baby and stick a hunk of gaudy plastic in the middle of her face. Who would do that?” Who indeed, grasshopper.

My boys have all been suck junkies. I held off for a couple of weeks with Tristan on the advice of our ped and numerous lactation consultants, because of the sorry mess that were my nipples due to questionable latch. For those weeks, Tristan pruned our pinky fingers while we pretzelled ourselves to accomodate him. He was three before he gave up his soothers, using them to “buy” a Gordon tank engine from a very understanding and patient Toys R Us cashier one memorable day. For years after, he’d look at family photos and point out all his favourite soothers. “Look, there’s the blue one. I loved the blue one.”

With Simon, even though my nipples were more shredded than ever, he had a soother in the first couple of days. I cursed my mother for bringing one into the house, then praised her sensibility when it bought me an extra 15 minutes or so of sleep at a time. I specifically bought the fancy Avent ones not so much for orthodontic concerns but so we could easily distinguish them from Tristan’s. At the time, Tristan was still using his at bedtime and I didn’t want him stealing soothers – which he often asked for and was refused during the day – from the baby. Simon was closer to three and a half when he finally gave it up a little less than a year ago. (!!) Seems like forever ago, and just yesterday.

So this time, I capitulated to the suck demons and had bought not just two but four soothers as part of the preparations for Lucas’s arrival. And the damn things are driving me bananas. I don’t remember this with the other boys, but Lucas is two and a half months old and still can’t hold the soother in his mouth. Every time I wrestle him into sleep (this is a child who does not simply “fall” asleep, he has to be wrestled and thrust into sleep with much jiggling and shushing and wrapping tightly of arms) I have to use one arm to support and jiggle him, one arm to pat his back, and one arm to hold his soother in place until he falls asleep.

If you can do the math, you can see my problem.

If he’s particularly frothed, we play the “I want the soother GIVE ME THE SOOTHER what the hell is this thing in my mouth GET IT OUT what are you doing I WANT THE SOOTHER” game. In and out, in and out. Not particularly fun during the day, and downright crazymaking in the darkness of night.

Speaking of night… I’m loathe to admit this one. You know how sometimes a parent will admit that for the first four months they were so desperate to sleep that they would do just about anything to get the baby to sleep, like sleeping on the recliner with baby draped across them like a sash, and you nod sympathetically but are thinking to yourself, “Sheesh, just put the baby down already. He’ll sleep when he’s tired.” You can call this my comeuppance. I now fall asleep every night perched precariously on the edge of my bed, my arm stretched across the gap to the cradle at my bedside and threaded through the rails so I can hold the baby’s soother in his mouth until he falls asleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up thinking my arm had fallen clean off, so profoundly numb it was. There have been nights that we have wrestled for more than an hour over the soother: in and out, in and out. I can’t sleep without it, I can’t sleep with it. Talk about crazymaking!

He’s got a new trick now. Little bugger has figured out which neurons to fire to turn his head (damn developmental milestones) and so he takes the soother while turned toward me, and before I can push my thumb up against it to keep it in place he flings his head to the side with such force that when he expels the soother he sends it flying over the cradle rail where it lands on the floor and takes a wonky bounce, never to be found again.

I can’t tell you how many hours of the past two months have been spent pretzelled into various positions as I try to hold that traitorous soother in place, whether with my back pressed against the driver’s side door in the car (one hand on the steering wheel and one hand snaked over the headrest and the canopy of the car seat) or crouched beside the cradle or swing, hoping hoping hoping that he’ll settle into a nap that doesn’t involve using me as a piece of furniture.

I’m always a little bit perplexed by parents who say their baby never took a soother; it’s a concept beyond my comprehension and just a little bit unnatural, kind of like elimination communication. Soothers are as essential to baby care as are diapers, at least in this house.

It seems like Lucas shares my love-hate relationship with the soother. Moreso than with the other boys, there have been times when I’ve wondered if I should just do away with the darn thing now as it often seems to irritate him more than soothe him. Likely because there is no milk coming out of it, I imagine. (I’ve really got to get a few more cuddling positions in my repertoire, because when I assume the “here comes the bottle” pose, which is coincidentally the same as the “here comes the soother” pose, and the “oh for the love of god, just go to sleep already” pose, he gets a little, um, ticked off when no milk is forthcoming.)

But other times, I can’t imagine how we’d do without it. His little eyes practically roll up in his head in blissful relief when I stick the plug in his mouth some days, and his limbs will stop flailing and relax completely the instant his lips close around it. For about two minutes. Until he spits it out. And starts rooting around for it. And then starts wailing for it. And the wails turn indignant when I try to put it back in his mouth. So I take it away again. And the wails turn hysterical with desire for it. Until I give it to him.

Repeat, ad infinitum, all… day… long.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chantal April 25, 2008 at 9:54 am

I’ve been there too. My second did the love/hate/love/hate thing with the soother and finally I had enough and took it away. It was hard. All the crying and the fussing as he learned to sooth himself. But it was worth it. My oldest was a soother addict (darn nurses at the hospital stuck one in his mouth at 1 day old, said he was crying too much, gee I wonder why – see yesterdays comment). He didn’t give it up till he was 5 (had it only in bed from 3 on) and I tell you it was like a drug addict in withdrawal, crying, shaking. It scared me. It was not pretty. I was glad I wouldn’t have to go through that again with #2.

2 Lucy April 25, 2008 at 10:25 am

I feel your pain! My son had a very similar reaction to the soother. For him, the give and take game was because he was constantly hungry in those first few months. What he really wanted was not just a piece of nipple-shaped plastic, but the real thing. As soon as he discovered the soother wasn’t going to give milk, he’d spit it out.

Sounds like Lucas is the same. And until they invent this:
I don’t know what the answer is! For Hayden, it was very, very regular feedings and no more soothers (instead I became a human soother). Good luck with it! I don’t know if there’s an easy answer to this one (though I’ll be watching this post to find out)!

3 Rebecca April 25, 2008 at 11:16 am

Oh you have my sympathy! Now, neither of my boys would take a binky (not for lack of trying, I assure you!!) but in my experience there’s always something. So even without the paci wars, we still had our own little battles. Hang in there, you know this will pass too soon.

I really do envy you having that little guy to snuggle with!

4 alison April 25, 2008 at 11:39 am

Leah never took a soother. She tried one, but wouldn’t use it, finding it far inferior to her thumb. At the time, I was grateful — you can lose a soother in the crib, but you always know where your thumb is. I’m less grateful now, when at age 8 she’s being fitted for an appliance to stop her thumbsucking, something she’s struggled to quit and been unable to do on her own.

Rae never took a soother either, but that’s because she used me for a soother for the first year of her life. I tried soothers, but it was the real nipple or nothing. Some days I wondered if I was doomed to go through life with a child hanging off my chest by her mouth. Fortunately, it passed. Eventually.

Good luck.

5 Swirl Girl April 25, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Binkies are for parents not for the kids. I loved my kids’ binkies!
All hail the binkie maker!!

You should go on this website www. The binkies are the ones they give in the hospital (for you non nursers like me, if there are any). We called the binkie the ‘little aquarium” because you can see your baby’s sucking through the nipple part of it. Hard to describe, but check out the website and you’ll see what I mean.

6 Anne April 25, 2008 at 11:01 pm

This comment isn’t about the soother (although my son adored his), this is about the arm asleep in the middle of the night, it saved me many extra minutes of sleep:

7 Barbara April 26, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Reid wouldn’t take a soother, though I tried it off and on until she was many months old. I thought it would allow Ken to, well, “soothe” her but she preferred nursing for comfort. All mama, all the time, was her motto. She wasn’t interested until she got to daycare and tried to steal the soothers from the other kids. Not that she wanted to suck on them, just possess them. Good luck with the contortionism.

8 Liz April 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm

No advice, really, except to introduce him to his thumb.

9 Theresa April 27, 2008 at 11:34 am

I had very similar soother experiences with my second. Your description of sleeping on the edge of your bed with your hand in the cradle brought back an interesting (almost lost) set of memories! LOL My first “wouldn’t take a soother” no matter how many we tried – go figure! But I had to laugh when you wrote about it….we wanted to swap a soother for his thumb.

The toss up of whether or not to use a soother, became really clear to us on the day I walked in to the SCU when my second was 2 days old – only to find a nurse had shoved his precious mouth full – with a SOOTHER!! I started to protest right off the bat, saying that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use a soother yet,… and wanted to wait and see….and couldn’t we just NOT use it for now! (They had already started formula with out my consent!) The nurse led me aside and put her arm around my shoulder and said hon, he’s quiet see? – we can’t afford to have him screaming cuz he can’t use that kind of energy right now – sometimes all they need to do is suck… And from that moment on, when he wasn’t nursing, he was sucking…. (or screaming love/hate/crazyness)

I love how eloquently you manage to describe the soother wars!!

10 nomotherearth April 30, 2008 at 11:11 am

Omigoodness this sounds exactly like my day. Can you please come over so we can hang out? How can someone want/need the soother so much and yet still not be able to keep it in his mouth at SIX MONTHS!? It’s driving me a bit nutty.

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