To some in today’s 30-mpg-on-the-highway-cross-over driving, old-world-vineyard preferring, grad-school-loan-repaying parenting community, suggesting you use a pacifier is the equivalent of telling you to formula-feed your baby while she sleeps on her stomach in a forward-facing car seat. I mentioned the word “binky” in our toddler music class last week, and every mom in the room turned to stare in panicked silence before openly contemplating whether someone should call Child Protective Services.
There are many concerns listed in the Googlesphere regarding the use of pacifiers, each ranking higher than the last on the “shrill harpy” scale of mommy-crazy. According to the most alarmist claims, your paci-sucking baby may never learn to talk, or he’ll have constant ear infections, or he’ll grow up to be a cross-dressing sociopath who tells his victims to put the lotion on the skin. For the sake of balanced reporting, I consulted the Mayo Clinic, my new online source of hypochondria ever since WebMD assured me that my frequent foot-muscle-spasms were definitely cancer. The Mayo Clinic is all, “some people use a pacifier and develop normally,” the way you might say that some people smoke a pack a day and live to be 102. Then they go on to list the pros of pacifier use, which include soothing your baby when he cries, helping him learn to fall asleep, and reducing his risk of SIDS. The cons include nipple confusion, dependency, and crooked teeth—but only if your kid is still gnawing on his binky at age nine, and then let’s be honest, you’re already in trouble with the meth you’ve been cooking in the basement, you negligent ass-clown. Assuming you have a 12-step program for paci-addicts lined up before his second birthday, grab yourself a handful of rubber nipples from the hospital stash and go forth fostering an oral fixation. I promise it’s worth it.
As anyone who has read the first five pages and then skipped to the middle of The Happiest Baby on the Block will tell you, sucking is one of the “5 Ss” that, when applied in perfect order and coordination, will make your newborn baby stop crying for at least 90 seconds, thereby giving you time to call your husband and demand he cancel the rest of his business trip and fly home from New York immediately, no matter that it’s 11PM and he’s actually in San Francisco. Your baby can also be calmed by sucking on your boob or a bottle, but the former leads to cracked nipples and co-sleeping until college, and the latter to cashing in your 401(k) to pay for extra formula and future summers at fat camp. You may have to work at building the paci habit for a few weeks, but the dividends pay off in the form of faster self-soothing, earlier sleeping through the night, and more frequent passive-aggressive comments from your mother-in-law that confirm your suspicion that she thinks you’re a mediocre parent at best.
Of course, I can’t guarantee you that using a pacifier won’t turn your precious angel into a serial killer—my binky-loving son is just 19 months old, and so far his only questionable behavior toward animals is his stubborn insistence that cows say “boo.” However, I will say with anecdotal certainty that a healthy pacifier habit can stymy a dropped-apple-at-Whole-Foods tantrum, straighten a no-more-car-seat full-body arch, and reverse your baby’s pre-dawn wake-ups that, without fail, follow the nights you decide to open that third bottle of wine. I’m still new at this parenting thing, but in my opinion, extra sleep and avoiding a public scene in the vegan dairy aisle are totally worth the potential future cost of braces and home drug testing kits. And let’s be honest, if you’re still reading my recommendations after the first four posts, you’ll probably be paying for one of those things in a few years anyway.
Written by: Kathleen