Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bad Parent: Suck City on Babble.com

Bad Parent: Suck City
Pamela Appea
For Babble.com
Published July 4, 2008


During a recent appointment, the doctor said this was the summer for my son to give up his pacifier.

"Tell your son that he's a big boy now. There are other babies out there that need his pacifiers," the doctor said, in a kind but no-nonsense tone.

I smiled and nodded.

"We'll do our best," I said with a bright smile.

I was lying through my teeth. The pacifier fairy will not be coming to our apartment this summer, or for as long as I can help it.

This puts me in the minority on my playground, where I constantly hear other mothers bragging to each other: "Oh, my daughter never used a pacifier." And "Well, my son had his binky, two, three months tops and then we took it away. And he's perfectly fine without one."

My son is almost two and has loved his pacifier ever since a nurse at our hospital gave him one in the NICU, where he spent two weeks after being born premature. As soon as my son left the hospital, he graduated to his second pacifier, a Nuk butterfly model that seemed to take up most of his face. I can't count how much money I've spent on pacifiers since, but to me it's money well spent.

Since he was born, my son's pacis have served as a way for me to get him to sleep sooner rather than later. His pacifiers have helped him calm down during New York City subway rides and during rough transitions from home to daycare when he's tired. The pacifier nips a kicking, crying, screaming toddler temper tantrum right in the bud. And my son automatically reaches for his pacifier when he needs something more than a book to read or some milk to drink or a playmate to hug.

Why are people so eager to give up such a magic bullet?

It would make sense if there were strong scientific evidence that the pacifier was truly evil. But it doesn't seem so bad.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund issued a statement that strongly discouraged pacifier use "because of [the] perceived interference with breastfeeding." But other studies have found that once breastfeeding is established, pacifiers are helpful for babies who crave non-nutritive sucking.

And in a 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association study, the conclusion was "that pacifier use is a marker of breastfeeding difficulties or reduced motivation to breastfeed, rather than a true cause of early weaning."

So in plain English, the pacifier didn't cause the breastfeeding to stop. Moms who were going to stop breastfeeding anyway due to work or difficulties or other reasons, elected to use a pacifier as a transition.

There have been a scattered number of reports that pacifier use is connected with ear infections among babies. The British Journal of Community Nursing did a 2002 study on ear infections and pacifier use.

It would be inaccurate to say the study was "pro" pacifier, but one line jumped out at me: "Rather than advising a parent not to use a pacifier for fear of causing otitis media (otherwise known as ear infection), advice in relation to this issue might best be restricted to pacifier users suffering from the problem in order to reduce the chances of recurrence."

So, the Brits say if you think your baby is suffering from ear infections because of pacifier use, then stop. But if they're not having ear infections, then . . . don't? Will do!

As for the alleged damage pacifiers cause to baby teeth, even the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry doesn't seem majorly concerned. They say: "Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and four years of age. No harm is done to their teeth or jaws."

The more hard-line American Dental Association recommends that children cut out their pacifier by age two. But at the same time, an article for the Journal of the American Dental Association, states that pacifiers are preferable to giving older babies and toddlers milk nighttime bottles of milk or juice. The article also goes on to say that "teething babies might find relief by using a pacifier." Booyah!

My enthusiasm for studies like these (you should have seen my glee when the AAP said pacifiers helped prevent SIDS!) indicate that I am clearly addicted to giving my son a pacifier. I confess it. Thanks to that little object, I've gotten more sleep (still not enough) and less stress. I've read a lot of books, never skipped a shower and I have been able to take my pacified son to nice restaurants.

Now that my son's in daycare, he doesn't want his pacifier as much as before. He loves playing for hours and can't seem to run while keeping the pacifier in his mouth. When he wants to talk, my son has to take his pacifier out to be understood.

Just today, in the morning rush to my son's daycare, as he was running out the door, he dropped the chain that holds his blue pacifier."Go get your pacifier. Don't forget it!" I said, sounding rather desperate. "You're going to need it."

He ran back and picked up the pacifier. Then he changed his mind. My son turned around and handed it to me. His message was clear: "You need this more than I do."