I had the thought to write this in the middle of the night last night. My 18-month old was screaming. We had rid him of his pacifier the day before and were in the “pacifier detox period”. You know, the time when your baby cries hysterically because for the last 18 months of his life, he has insisted on ONLY sleeping with a pacifier in his mouth? And you, a sleep deprived parent would go to great lengths for a full night of sleep, obliged happily for the past 18 months. But, today is the day we rid ourselves from OUR pacifier addiction. It’s time, for so many reasons, to get rid of our dependence. But man, how are we going to get through this?
When I became a mother, I was on the fence about the pacifier as a tool for soothing. But, after a few sleepless weeks caught in the newborn haze, we tried a few pacifiers and found the right one for our son. I quickly and enthusiastically became a pacifier enthusiast, taking the “whatever works, works” approach to parenting. It felt like survival.
Finding the right pacifier for your newborn is like winning the lottery. There are many shapes, sizes, and types of pacifiers to try out. Each kid has their preference for one or the other, and some kids won’t take a pacifier at all, which feels like a blessing and also a curse at the same time. But so does having a kid who becomes attached to a pacifier. Anyways, once they find a pacifier they like, life seems to get easier in some ways. Some newborns, like ours, cry a lot. They also love to suck. They don’t have the skills to self-soothe, so they are left dependent on either your breast, the bottle, or the pacifier to feel calm. I already felt like I was nursing around the clock and frankly, my nipples needed a break when my son only wanted to suck for comfort. The pacifier solved that for us
Then, months went by and we used the pacifier as a tool to calm him when it was convenient for us; the car, the airplane, the grocery story, in line at the DMV. You understand what I am saying. It helped us live. It helped our fussy newborn turned baby turned toddler into a more relaxed human. His parents fell suit.
But then there were times when the pacifier became a crutch that I began to question. At around 12 months, I removed the pacifier from the car and tried to go to the grocery store without it, leaving it for use for naps, nighttime, and the airplane to visit family. But slowly, my “rules” for pacifier approved places loosened and we had a pacifier everywhere.
At 18 months old, our son began throwing his pacifier(s) (YES PLURAL, we had 4-6 of them in his crib at a time) out of the crib. He would cry until we entered at all hours of the night to retrieve them for him. Then, he would drift back to sleep. It wasn’t so bad. But then it got worse. He wouldn’t go to sleep for hours. He was repeatedly waking at all hours of the night, demanding our entrance into his room for their retrieval. 10 days later, we needed a game plan. It was time to wean him off of the pacifier.
Our pediatrician strongly supported our interest in getting rid of the pacifier. She told us it might take him a few hours to settle at night without it, to be prepared to enter his room and reassure him every few minutes that he was safe without his pacifier.
So, we tried it. It was the longest hour of my life. I sat outside with a girlfriend sipping wine, playing music so I couldn’t hear the cries from outside his window. It was incredibly hard to focus on the conversation. I set timers for every 10-15 minutes to go into his room a reassure him. It was heartbreaking.
But, you know what? It worked. He slept better once he did fall asleep, knowing he didn’t need anything else to help him get back to sleep.
But I suggest telling your kid ahead of time. It will help you feel like you prepared them for this change instead of just going cold turkey.
Much love, mama. I see you.