When my daughter was born, she refused a pacifier.
This was shocking to me, as a clueless new mother, because I had assumed all babies needed pacifiers. I purchased a WubbaNubb with a cuddly elephant, invested in a few packs of pacifiers from different manufacturers, and even gathered up all of the free sample pacifiers. I got this, I’d thought, we’ll find the one you like best.
In the hospital, my baby only took a pacifier during the brief time spent in the nursery. But that made latching hard. Breastfeeding seemed impossible and a dedicated, sweet nurse spent her night coaching both of us through it. Without her, I probably would’ve given up before I’d even started. And in my frustration, I blamed the pacifier.
I trotted out excuses like “nipple confusion” even though I only knew it from shows like The Office and a brief mention during a breastfeeding class we’d taken before birth. I decided that breastfeeding was more important than the pacifier and cast the collection aside.
Then four months came.
At four months, my baby seemed to forget how to sleep. Some people call it a regression, but my husband and I called it a true test of our marriage. A bad cold led to bad nights which led to a cranky, overtired family. The only way she could sleep was on our chests and we panicked like skittish new parents and decided to trade off shifts through the night for three miserable nights.
We read books provided for online courses on infant sleep. We searched for help from sleep consultants and the advice they offered on their social media. We begged our tiny little baby to cut us some slack and try to sleep – weirdly, she didn’t respond to the request.
And yes, we cried a little bit.
And then we turned off the nightlight on the sound machine and offered a pacifier.
I don’t know, even to this day, which trick worked, but our baby started sleeping again. And not only sleeping but sleeping through the night. So we bought more pacifiers. We kept pacifiers in the diaper bag, sent some to daycare, started leaving more and more in her crib to give her options when they inevitably fell through the slats to the ground. And we rejoiced in sleep.
Until our eighteen-month doctor visit, where our pediatrician patiently told us that it was time for the pacifier to go. If she has it at two, she explained, she’ll have it at four. It only gets harder to take it away.
And given our tentative talks about growing our family, a small fear began that if we didn’t eliminate the pacifier soon, the decision to try for another baby would bring the habit back in full force.
We started slow because I hated the idea of depriving my daughter of the comfort she needed during the night. First, we removed all of the extra pacifiers. If she lost hers at night, she would spend the night without it, we decided. And that seemed to work well. We continued sleeping through the night, at least, so it’s a full-blown success in my book.
And then came the hard part.
I cheated, I’ll admit.
I swapped him for a new tool for comfort: a toddler pillow.
The transition, for us, has been smooth. My daughter was overjoyed at the idea of her own pillow – she claimed it out of the box immediately and sat with it on her lap all night until dragging it upstairs to bed.
For me, it was a relief to see her latch onto something new. Taking the pacifier felt, to me, like robbing her of the comfort she needed when I wasn’t with her. But providing an alternative assuaged my ever-present Mom Guilt.
We’ve only had one rough night so far, but we both survived and I think we’re going to make it.
And I can finally pack the last of those pacifiers away, closing another tiny chapter in this baby’s book as we launch into our next adventure.
In case you’re wondering – that next adventure? It’s pull-ups.