I know some of you will be able to relate or even sympathize with this scenario, and and some of you won’t agree with my thoughts on the subject. I know that mothering a child is a very personal thing – to each its own, right? I just wanted to tell my story.
Long ago I had grand plans for the parent I wanted to be and the way my children would behave once the time came. They would happily eat their vegetables, be on a feeding schedule from birth and then be quickly weaned from breastfeeding by the age of 1, easily sleep in their own rooms (on their own) after spending a few months in a bassinet in our room, and smile through a permanently attached pink or blue pacifier.
My kids have taught me otherwise. None of my supposed plans came to fruition. None. However, my mothering style and my thinking has also evolved since those first naive days. But this post is not about eating vegetables or even weaning. It’s about that cute little pacifier I always dreamed my children would use as an accessory.
Neither of my two children have ever wanted a pacifier. I relentlessly tried to have them use a pacifier since birth. Or at least suck their thumb. Why in the world would anyone wish to un-do thumb-sucking or a pacififer in the toddler years when you don’t have to? To answer that question you need to know one thing about my kids – my children have never been self-soothers. Even a little bit. Ever. I was the pacifier. I was the security blanket. I was the special teddy bear. I have constantly felt like this, going back and forth over and over and over again in these past few years. There was no substitute for me. Can you see why I so desperately tried to get them to take a pacifier, suck their thumb or have a security item?
My firstborn knew exactly what he wanted and needed. He wanted nothing to do with sleeping on his own, and being the heat-seeking missile that he was, needed to cuddle up as closely as is humanly possible next to his food source (i.e. me). He knew the difference between a real (human) pacifier and a synthetic substitute and made it clear that a substitute would not suffice.
Several moms warned me of the dangers associated with being a pacifier for my son. He will learn to be dependent on me for comfort, they said. But is that really a bad thing? I mean, I wanted him to be dependent on me for comfort. Babies need comfort and who better to provide it than a mother? It was then that I decided to stop listening to other moms and start listening to my child and my own innate abilities and intuitions as a mom. I would do what worked for us.
In the first few weeks, I didn’t mind being the pacifier to my helpless newborn. A few weeks later, it became a wee bit annoying, and then after months of it, I became exhausted, sometimes tearful or downright resentful (for a few seconds anyway). I couldn’t get much done and had to always be “on call” for not only nursing, but anytime the baby needed comforting or just the need to suck. Day or night. Nothing I tried worked, and all the complaining was making me grouchy and impatient as a mom. My son still needed me and still needed the comfort, so I tried to see it from a different perspective.
Babies have always needed to suck, so what did moms and babies do prior to the invention of a pacifier? Pacifiers must have been a substitute for mom. So I would venture to guess that mom may be a better choice and a pacifier secondary. (But that’s just this mom’s opinion.) So I stopped complaining. It’s natural for him to want me as a pacifier. I finally surrendered and assumed my role as the Human Pacifier. But not as happily as I would have liked.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I came across an article talking about the research done on unrestricted non-nutritive sucking. So this human pacifier gig has a name, and there are actual legitimate benefits and reasons other than sheer comfort, relaxation and security!?! Suddenly every negative thought I had about being a human pacifier just went out the door. Babies know what they need more than we do. They could be cold, lonely, sleepy, or hurting or they could need the human contact and sucking to regulate their body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. To me, these are things that can’t necessarily be replaced by sucking on a pacifier. Or at least seemingly so.
Looking back, I am so glad I was his pacifier. Was it inconvenient at times? YES! Did I get frustrated? YES! Impatient? YES! Did I lose sleep? YES! Was I not able to do simple tasks on days he was extra cranky, teething, or sick? YES! Did I ever dream about leaving him with a babysitter, friend, or family member so I could go out, even if it was just to the grocery store? YES!
But there were also times of sheer joy. That I could be there for him in an instant when he needed me most. He never felt abandoned or scared and knew he could count on mom for anything. Anytime. Strangely enough, once I stopped resisting and relinquished my negative thoughts about the role, pacifying him pacified me as well. It was emotionally replenishing for both of us.
With my son, the pacifier phase didn’t last long in the grand scheme of things. I no longer needed to be his pacifier by the time he was 18 months, maybe sooner. Now I find myself playing the role once again with my 12 month old daughter, and probably not for the last time. I truly don’t mind, though there are a few times I still find myself having those fleeting thoughts of longing for freedom. (I’m not perfect.) But with her happily humming in my arms, I melt and those thoughts are quickly forgotten. She loves me and needs me, and that’s enough reason for me to keep playing the part.
I am not in a position to tell you to assume this role with your own kids. Nor does every mom have the luxury to be a stay-at-home mom or even breastfeed their child. All I am saying is that this worked for us, and you should do what works for you and your child (regardless of anyone else’s opinions, no matter how well-intended they are).
These tiny human beings have shaped and molded me into the mother I am today. For me, being a human pacifier is part of being the mom I need to be. Maybe not the mother I had originally envisioned for myself, but a mom nonetheless. Their mom. So to all the human pacifier moms frustrated with this same situation… I say let them suck! It’s a relatively short season in life, and you could always use another excuse not to get the laundry done for one more day.
Valerie is a God-fearing coach’s wife and stay at home mom of five bright-eyed little ones. She is the original founder of A Nation of Moms, a “one-stop shop” blog-azine of resources and advice for all moms who, like Valerie, just needed a little help.