Bye-Bye, Binky: Weaning Baby Off of Pacifier

My daughter turned me into a pacifier proselytizer. Then I had to help her quit.
Baby giving up pacifier

Illustrations by Jennifer Taylor

It was love at first suck. My daughter Stella was a Binky junkie, and for her first two years we didn't even pretend that she could quit. When she needed her pacifier and it wasn't immediately available, she would get positively apoplectic, crying so hard she didn't even make a sound. So my husband and I learned pretty quickly that it was better to leave the house without a wallet, without keys, without a coat in the dead of winter, than to leave without a pacifier. If we happened to find ourselves without one, we'd drop everything and remedy that -- quickly.

I wasn't always a Binky enabler. When my oldest, Giovanni, was born, I turned up my nose at pacifiers -- and parents who relied on them. My son never developed the habit. He did, however, develop a boob habit, and by his first birthday I'd become a human pacifier. So by the time my daughter was born, a year later, I was considering becoming a Binky believer.

It helped too, when I learned that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorses pacifier use at bed- and naptime, as it's been shown to help decrease a baby's risk for sudden infant death syndrome. Doctors don't know precisely why this works. "We think that when a baby is using her oral/facial muscles to suck on a pacifier, she has an increased consciousness and is more easily aroused," says Deb Lonzer, M.D., chair of the department of community pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, in Ohio.

My only remaining concern was the vague but looming threat of "nipple confusion," which, to be honest, sounds more like a malady in a B movie than a legitimate medical phenomenon. So I turned to New York City lactation consultant Freda Rosenfeld, who told me that she doesn't believe nipple confusion is real for most babies. Still, "for babies who aren't thriving, it can be easier to suck on the pacifier than to nurse, so they may not eat enough," she maintains, which is why she advises that parents wait to introduce a pacifier until their baby is gaining weight nicely and nursing well (the AAP says a month should do it).

I intended to follow this advice, but my husband, less neurotic than I am, took matters into his own hands. When Stella was about 2 weeks old, he popped a pacifier into her mouth when she woke at 3 a.m. Voil?! She went right back to sleep. And she slept -- for five, six, sometimes seven hours at a time. It was as if the heavens had dropped the pacifier into our sleep-deprived laps.

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