Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pacifier waffling: The suckifier makes its debut

In the midst of a long day juggling Will and Owen – which included stubborn Will acting out when it was time to leave a friend’s house, a few bouts of Owen and Will crying in unison, no overlapping naptime, and general Owen fussiness – I decided yesterday to finally break open the pacifier package that Rob bought before Owen was born. We’d decided we might try the tool after struggling so much with Will and after reading a few books that made me feel like very judicious use of the devices in just the first few months of life could be okay. I’d been putting it off until now, because I’ve generally been able to figure out what’s bothering Owen and find a way to calm him down.
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.


Courtney said...

Hi Annie,
I came to your blog from our google group and I can ease at least one of your worries... With my older daughter I waited until she was at least five weeks old before giving her a pacifier. She did not wean until I was pregnant with her baby sister two years later. With Natascha, who was a very early talker, I gave her a pacifier on DAY TWO! And she, at 19 months, has NO interest in giving up nursing. I, on the other hand, would like a little time without someone attached to my body...

Grace said...

Both my girls had a passie (as we called it) until they were over 1 year old and neither has ever had an ear infection and Ella weaned at 19 mos and Aubry is still breastfeeding at 2 years old so don't believe that stuff!! We only used it at nap/bedtime with child #2. We never used it to "quiet her down" just to help her sleep - it never left the crib. If she still had it in when she woke up she would pop it out herself and throw it down in the crib. And she is a much better sleeper than Ella. Anyway, don't be so hard on yourself - there are lots and lots of things that are worse than a pacifier.

Annie Addington said...

Glad to hear from both of you that pacifier use didn't interfere with longterm breastfeeding. It's been five days since I first wrote this post and we're still on the suckifier here and there. I'm trying hard not to overuse it but when it's the only thing that gets him content, I'm pretty glad to have it (especially on our car trip up to the lake).