My Role as a Human Pacifier

I know some of you will be able to relate or even sympathize with this scenario, and then again some of you won’t agree with my thoughts on the subject.  Either way, I’m ok with it.  I don’t need sympathy nor assurance, and I know that mothering a child is a very personal thing – to each its own, right?  I just wanted to tell my story (and let you know that I’m going out on a limb while doing so)…

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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 a ping pong ball or a perpetual cow, 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.

Photo Credit

Comments

  1. 1
    Deanna T. says:

    Thank you for this post. I am SO there. Except as my daughter grew out of nursing (she weaned herself at around 2.5 years), she grew attached To My Hair. I have often thought I should just cut it off and hand it to her. It is her security blanket when she is hurt or sad. She wants to hug My Hair, not me. I have definitely had the thoughts you described of WISHing I could get her to attach herself to a lovey.

  2. 2
    Valerie says:

    Ha! We haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I have heard of some doll you can custom make with your locks. I wish I could remember the website now. But they actually make loveys out of real hair for those kids that love mom’s hair. Nice to know you aren’t alone, huh?

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. 3
    Kelli McCormick says:

    Good for you! :)

    I’ve also felt the frustration of a baby determined to be soothed by me — and ONLY me; Daddy, Nana, bottles and pacis were inconceivable LOL — morning, noon and night. Our first daughter nursed ravenously until the age of two, and our fourth has just about self-weaned recently, with her third birthday fast approaching.

    Our second and third daughters were another story entirely. Avid little nursers at the beginning, they both abruptly self-weaned before their first birthdays … and it was devastating! Never again have I looked back on those human-pacifier days with regret. :)

  4. 4

    thanks for sharing your story! I have been the human pacifier since day 1. she refused a pacifier and bottles. I have/am experiencing all of the emotions you described. right now, my 17-month old is non-nutritive sucking while I type. :-)

  5. 5

    You are not alone! I too am a human pacifier. Especially when teething pain strikes. I get so frustrated that my 21 month old can’t/won’t sleep through the night in her own room, but then I watch her sleeping so sweetly cuddled up to me, a smile on her face as she nurses. What’s a mother to do? I just remind myself that she will only be in this phase of her life for a little while. Thanks for sharing!

  6. 6
    hippie4ever says:

    I too am a human pacifier. Some days it is SOOOO frustrating and others I just love. I know all to soon he’ll be a grown man living away from Mom. Sniff.

  7. 7
    Lisa Smith says:

    As a want-to-be-mom (been trying for over a year), with many ideas about “how it will be”, I’m thrilled to learn a little bit about reality. This is the stuff no one tells you! Wow!

  8. 8
    Mari says:

    aww, just know it surely will NOT last forever. they do self wean at some point. enjoy it while it lasts because before you know it, they are an adult and you can no longer hold them the way you can when they are that young. i bf-ed all my 4 boys, also the so called extended, why its called extended idk, to me its just bf until they no longer need it, and only they know whats best for them. you go mom

    How Sweet It Is member. Sprinkle Of Fun is a new follower/subscriber.

  9. 9
    Valerie says:

    Love to see all these mamas out there. Though I knew I wasn’t the only mom with this issue (which I don’t really find much of an “issue”), it’s always nice to see more of us.

    Lisa, first rule of parenting – throw out every pre-conceived notion! Start completely clueless and you’ve got it down. LOL! TTC moms have a special place in my heart, so I will pray extra hard that a little blessing comes your way soon. God has a special and perfect timing for all of us!

  10. 10
    Monex says:

    Hannah was sucking on a pacifier fairly shortly after birth and not at my request. By the time I offered her a pacifier again it was the better part of a year later. She looked at me like I had two heads and that was the end of any pacifier use in our house..When my second child Jacob was born I was spooked from my experience with Hannah.

  11. 11
    Jamie-Lea says:

    Its good to know that I am not alone in this. It is frustrating but my children never took a soother either. It was me, as frusttrating and tiring it was at times I do not resent it. I have beautiful children who walk around with a soother in their mouths like some :) I see their beautiful smiles and hear their beautiful sounds and they are not muffled by a soother. I like that they also can self sooth a bit or maybe jsut need a little cuddle from me and then go on their merry way without having to run for the plastic :)

  12. 12
    Tian Kinasih says:

    y daughter doesn’t want any pacifier at all! When I was trying to gave her, she refused it. She used to sucking her fingers but it’s only last few months, and i didn’t worry at all, because it won’t last forever.

  13. 13
    Tian Kinasih says:

    My daughter doesn’t want any pacifier at all! When I was trying to gave her, she refused it. She used to sucking her fingers but it’s only last few months, and i didn’t worry at all, because it won’t last forever.

  14. 14
    nickie says:

    Thank you for this post! I have certainly been there with my son. I’m so glad that I’m not alone with being a human pacifer. It was exhausting at first, but I knew there was a reason for my son’s behavior.

  15. 15
    Mel says:

    Hi, I am a single mother of two and I was feeling as if I was LESS of a good mother, because my two children sleeps with me and I am the pacifier for the younger one. My Boy 18 months won’t sleep without me by his side. And because of this he sleeps sometimes late. I personally don’t have a problem with it. But people are telling me, that because he sleeps with me, he is gonna have problems later with structure. Someone told me, if you love your kids you SHOULD let them sleep in their own bed. So with other words, let them just cry to sleep? Because of this article, I now know, that I should just follow my intuition. Anyone who has done this and have older kids now, how they turned out to be?

  16. 16
    Valerie says:

    I’m the human pacifier to our third child now, and I learned not only to accept it but to love it as well. Don’t worry – mommy’s gut always seems to know best. And I know PLENTY of people whose children are perfectly normal and healthy – boys and girls – all grown up. In fact, there are probably a lot more moms and dads who do this co-sleeping arrangement than you know. Many of the parents who do/did it keep quiet because it’s still such a taboo subject. If it helps, read Dr. Sear’s book on Fussy babies when he talks about his one child that they had to sleep with. It changed their entire thinking. It was what that child needed to succeed in life. Each child is different and needs different things to happy, healthy and secure. It could be that this is what your children need from you. Cherish this time because it will soon be gone.

  17. 17
    Nadia says:

    Thanks for the post..,now i know what to expect with my first child

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