When Oliver was born, all he wanted to do was suck. My breastfeeding troubles meant that using my nipples as a human pacifier just wasn’t an option, so we took to using our pinky fingers to help soothe him whenever he cried. This quickly became problematic, as it didn’t allow us to put him down; not even for a moment. So we set out to find a pacifier.
This wasn’t as easy a task as one might expect. In the beginning, he disliked every round nipple pacifier we introduced, including the popular Gumdrop (the lactation consultant had advised against using “orthodontic” or flat nipples). We eventually found one that he would tolerate for five to 10 minutes at a time, but it wasn’t until after two months of age that we finally decided to try the Natursutten natural rubber pacifier, with great success.
I had previously noticed them at a high-end baby store, but wrote them off as yet another overpriced, gimmicky baby gadget designed to appeal to the parent who buys only the best for their child at any cost. It turns out that they are in many ways a superior product (you can check the above link for details), and babies particularly like them because of the natural rubber smell and the way the base rubs against the bottom of their nose.
Lo and behold, Oliver loved this pacifier, and we were so happy to have found the panacea that would stop his crying and help him go to sleep.
Fast-forward about a month…
One evening we had the sudden realization that we had not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since Oliver was about 10 weeks old. Our baby, who was previously sleeping in six to eight hour stretches overnight, had been waking multiple times each night for weeks on end. Fortunately though, he was easy to settle: all we had to do was shove the pacifier back in his mouth and he’d quickly go back to sleep.
After a little bit of research online, I discovered the concept of “sleep associations,” which is a fancy term for the various crutches (e.g. a pacifier, a full tummy, being held by a parent) that babies use to fall asleep. Babies naturally wake several times throughout the night, and the trick to a good night’s sleep is their ability to fall back asleep unaided. The theory is that if babies who have “sleep associations” wake to different conditions than those under which they fell asleep (i.e. their pacifier has fallen out, they are hungry, or they are in their bed rather than mom or dad’s arms), they are unable to settle themselves without their crutch.
It was with this newfound knowledge that we decided the pacifier had to go. We had originally decided to pacifier wean before six months of age, so the timing was right. We felt that a gradual weaning would probably not be the most effective route to success, so we took them away “cold turkey.”
Last Wednesday night, for the first time in months, we put Oliver to bed without a pacifier. And we haven’t used it since — not even once!
I’m not going to sugar-coat it: the first night was hell. But the second night, he slept straight through from 9:00 P.M. to 8:00 A.M. Coincidence? Perhaps. He certainly hasn’t slept perfectly in the ensuing days, but on the whole, we have seen a dramatic and obvious improvement in both his daytime and nighttime sleep.
Since saying goodbye to the pacifier, Oliver is finally learning to fall asleep on his own. We put him to bed awake, and most of the time he will go to sleep without intervention after a few minutes of babbling and/or fussing. On a few occasions, he has even managed to settle himself back to sleep when he’s awoken crying in the middle of the night!
I will admit, there are still times when I’ve thought it would be really nice to give him his pacifier — like when we’re out for a walk and he won’t stop crying — but I’m afraid that if we give it to him on occasion, it will become a slippery slope. It’s an easy way to placate him, and we probably used it more often than we should have.
On the bright side, at least we no longer have the worry that he will be a walking, talking pacifier sucker.
Do (did) you use a pacifier for your baby? Why or why not? If so, at what age will (did) you wean them?