New Mommy Blog

To Cry or Pacify? The Big Debate

Binky, paci, plug, nuk-nuk.  Whatever you call it, pacifier use is a hugely polarizing topic.  I was one of those non-moms who totally judged other moms’ use of the pacifier.  I insisted I would never want to pacify the cry of my baby.  I thought it was cruel and lazy.  Couldn’t those parents take care of their babies’ needs on their own without using a small piece of rubber?  When Micah was rolled into my hospital room on his first night, the cradle was stocked with all the necessary gear:  diapers, wipes, nasal aspirator….pacifier?  Why would they bring this to me?  Didn’t they know my embrace was going to be enough to soothe the needs of my newborn?   I shoved the pacifier in a corner of the crib and rocked my new man back and forth.  I had read the new research that suggested pacifiers could help reduce the risk of SIDS, but until the research was conclusive, I didn’t want to risk having my kid go to kindergarten sucking on a binky.  End of story, right?

Night two in the hospital, Micah woke himself up several times because he was sucking so hard – on nothing.  I instinctively placed the rubber pacifier between his tiny little lips.  He took it and immediately fell back asleep, and so did I.  That instant, I started to believe all the supporting evidence about newborns’ sucking instincts.  And just like that, my judgment fell to the ground. 

When Micah began attending Kids ‘R’ Kids, I had to fill out a questionnaire describing his personality and behaviors.  When I got to the pacifier section, I hesitated.  I was nervous that Micah might become increasingly dependent on the comfort of his paci while he spent time away from us.   After discussing my concerns at length, his teacher and I devised a “pacifier plan.” We decided he would be given the pacifier only at naptime or when he seemed otherwise inconsolable.  She understood our desire to have Micah self-soothe without the use of a pacifier.  I had come to terms with his sucking habit, but I was trying to be conscious of not overusing it.

There is a popular book that outlines the first three months of a newborn’s life as “the fourth trimester.” The pediatrician, Harvey Karp, who authored the book, Happiest Baby on the Block, insists that a baby’s sucking is a natural extension of in-utero life.  He cites tons of evidence that early experience with pacifiers does not translate into interdependence and inability to cope, as my pre-mom judgments had me thinking.  Many of my friends had recommended I read the book, and also guaranteed that the methods described in the book would help us through the early days.  When I finally read the book after Micah was born, I was comforted by the expert advice.  In fact, I even picked up some tips on early weaning.

We stopped giving Micah his pacifier the night before his four-month birthday. The transition was seamless, and there were no tears.  He closed his eyes and went right to sleep.  The next week, Micah began sucking his thumb.  Let the judgment begin!