05 March 2009

Things I've Learned - Pacifiers

The British call them dummies.

And that is how I was inclined to think of them, back in my pre-parenting days. None of this new age North American re-branded touchy-feely “soother” or “pacifier”. Back then, I was inclined to be judgy and sanctimonious about all manner of things. This is easy when you are completely ignorant about that which you are judging.

All I knew was that I hated the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth, and I swore that I would never use one.

You know what's coming, right?

We had The Boy.

I steadfastly stuck to my anti-soother stance for two entire months. How? Simple: I became The Boy’s soother. He was on the boob a lot in those first weeks. And a pinky finger inserted in a screaming baby’s mouth works wonders…

You know, except that you can’t really do anything else. An alarming percentage of your finger disappears into that little mouth. One arm full of wriggly, fussy little person and the other hostage to his need to suck pretty much precludes anything more complicated than asking your partner to order take-out for dinner. And the suction power generated by a newborn is impressive. If you could harness and redirect that kind of energy, you could probably restore electricity to the people of Iraq in short order. Seriously, my fingers at times felt quite bruised.Link
And you can’t not soothe your child. Not only does the sound of his crying make you crazy, but as a new mom, you’re terrified of creating the slightest disturbance or inconvenience for anyone, anywhere, any time, for any reason. No one wants to be the mom that everyone’s looking daggers at.

Which is why I broke down a couple of days before The Boy and I went to Provence for a two week holiday. A ten hour flight across nine time zones with an infant put the fear in me. I was so worried about being the lady on the plane with the screaming baby that I caved and bought a couple of soothers. Not to actually use, you know. Just in case.

As it turned out, The Boy was a perfect angel on the plane. It was once we’d been in France for a couple of days that he lost his mind one morning and was inconsolable. Even the magic pinky wasn’t working, and he was making such a racket I feared my generous and easygoing hosts might ask us to leave. (That never would have happened, but new moms are not renowned for clear and logical thinking…) Out of desperation, I popped one of the soothers in his mouth.

The Boy at 3 months

Ah, the bliss of sweet silence. It was unbelievable, amazing. Just like that, he was happy, sucking away contentedly, and making me feel like a complete bonehead for having been so stubborn for so long. Sigh.

The Takeaway:

  1. There are hills to die on. This is not one of them. It's simple: happy baby = less stressed you. Everybody wins.
  2. Look for BPA-free soothers with silicone teats. Silicone's less likely to crack and crumble than rubber or plastic, and is odor/taste free. Plus it just looks cleaner somehow.
  3. If baby prefers to suck their thumb, even better. Their thumb can’t get lost and is less likely to be dropped on the floor right when you need it most.
  4. We used a soother for about six weeks. When The Boy was 3 1/2 months old, we started phasing it out, using it only at nap/bed time, and then eliminating it entirely. By that time he’d learned to self-soothe and didn’t need it anymore.
  5. I’m still a judgy person, and I still hate the look of a soother in a baby’s mouth. In a toddler’s mouth bothers me even more. But if The Boy still wanted it, we'd still be using one.
  6. As it turns out, even a dummy can teach you a few things.


  1. Great post! My biggest concern was bad teeth down the road and nipple confusion now. But since my little dude is established at breastfeeding now, I have now worries. And I plan to ween him off of the soother before jaw/teeth damage. Love your closing line...

  2. Hi Lexi, great post, I love your writing style. I am so glad to read that someone other than myself refused to give baby the soother (the few gals I know with babes all gave soothers to theirs).

    I refused to give my baby the soother until after 4 weeks, as the books put the fear into me that baby will forget how to nurse etc. etc. At first I researched all the different soothers and went with the 'ortho' designed ones. When I finally gave it to him he wasn't taking to it that well at all. So we tried various types/designs, one day he liked type A, the next type B. Overall he really didn't take to them and now at 7 months we rarely use it at all. I remember thinking that next time around (if there is one) I might give the soother to the baby at 2 weeks, because it was so hard. But when I think back to the difficult times, I can't really remember them anymore, and I am glad that I don't need to rely on a soother.