Yesterday, though, we were getting into a pattern of nursing too frequently (and spitting up and having gas because of it) and I knew it was because Owen just wanted some good sucking time. He frequently tries to gnaw on his knuckles but doesn’t have the control yet to find his thumb.
“He just needs to suck,” I told Will, who was following me and crying Owen around. “I think I’m going to try the pacifier.”
Will was immediately excited by the idea. He asked impatiently about when Owen could have his “suckifier” as I set some water boiling to disinfect two straight-from-the-package pacifiers.
I wasn’t sure what Owen would think. I’d waited until much later to try a pacifier with Will, at some moment when I was desperate, and he never took to the thing. This time, following a suggestion from Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby on the Block” (in which you employ a little reverse psychology: put the pacifier in the mouth, then gently tug it away, which makes the baby want it all the more) Owen took less than 30 seconds to get quite happy with his suckifier.
I almost hate looking at him with it – he looks so unnatural with a big plastic plug obstructing his mouth. And I was feeling a tad guilty again: Now I’m pacifying son #1 with 15 minutes of TV a day and son #2 with the suckifier. Except with this pacifier there was such peace. I let Owen suck himself to near sleepiness for five minutes, then gently removed it from his mouth and carried him to his bassinet, where I patted him some and he had a nice nap.
I’m swearing to myself, and making Rob join me in the vow, that we’re not going use the suckifier until nothing else works. I don’t want to plug up Owen’s only form of communication and I am beginning to know his cries and his needs. I’m also going to plan to pull the plug on the ol’ suckifier entirely, assuming we do stick with some occasional use of it, by the time Owen hits three or four months. I’d rather not be dealing with the thing all the way into toddlerhood and I’d rather Owen learned to get himself to sleep without it early on.
Today I found that my own well-washed fingers work about as well as the pacifier, so when it’s practical I think I’ll use them first. But I’m tempted by the idea of having a pacifier for some situations – if Owen starts screaming in the stroller on the way home from the park, for example. Still, maybe it’s not worth flirting with a device that could become addictive for both Owen and us. I think there are probably plenty of babies out there who need a pacifier more desperately than Owen, and it may be better to avoid the thing entirely in our case. Or maybe I need to lighten up and let the boy suck??
Some downsides I’ve found on long-term pacifier use: From this Dr. Sears Web site: One study reported in Pediatrics showed that babies who used pacifiers in their first six weeks tended to wean earlier (this one scares me – I’d like to nurse Owen for at least a year, but I also imagine that most pacifier babies get much more time with their “paci” than Owen will). A few studies have reported that babies using pacifiers get more ear infections, probably because sucking hard on a pacifier disturbs the pressure in the ears. This Mayo Clinic site says: “Babies who rely on a pacifier as a way to self-soothe have a higher risk of developing ear infections. Pacifier use is directly related to ear infection problems in babies, especially those between 6 and 12 months of age. However, there's no evidence that thumb sucking increases the risk of ear infection.” ) Karp says not worry about ear infections for babies under four months because young infants can’t suck hard enough to cause much pressure to build up. Really longterm pacifier use can become a dental problem too – if your 4-year-old’s still walking around with binky in mouth, he may develop an overbite.
Of course, for nursing moms it’s also important to avoid pacifiers until babies are well established in breastfeeding – preferably at least four or five weeks old – to avoid “nipple confusion.”
If you’re considering pacifier use, go to this University of Michigan Health System site for tips on when and when not to use it. They advise against using pacifiers to help your child fall asleep, for example. You’re likely to end up losing sleep in the long run as you go pacifier hunting throughout the night.
So we’ve been sucked just a little ways into suckifier land, but we’re not in deep yet. Owen has yet to put mouth to pacifier today. And I, always the wishy-washy mother, am still straddling the fence – to suckify a little only as "needed” or not to suckify at all?
Anyone with thoughts on the matter? You might just bring me some clarity.