My son will be 3 next month, and he still uses a pacifier at night. He calls it his “bink.”
I’d like to tell you that I don’t really care what anyone thinks about my son using a pacifier as an almost 3-year-old, but that’s not entirely true.
The truth is there is a part of me that wishes he didn’t. There is a part of me that feels guilty because he still does. There is a part of me that worries what other moms are thinking when they hear him ask for his pacifier.
This unwelcome feeling of guilt is tied to expectations that are not my own, which is even more unsettling.
For the most part, I’m not one to get too hung up on things like this. I don’t care when kids start walking, how long they drag around a special blanket, or if they suck their thumb. Kids mature and grow at different rates, and I have always held the belief that when they are ready, they will meet that next milestone. I try not to wish and worry about when that time will come.
My son’s pacifier is a source of comfort. Since he was an infant, he has struggled with recurrent ear infections. Despite our best efforts and weekly trips to a specialist, his ear problems persist. It has become a chronic issue that is often accompanied by pain.
As a mother, there is no worse hell than seeing your child in pain. When the antibiotics and pain medications aren’t enough, he always asks for his bink. I would give him the moon if I thought it would make his pain more bearable.
It’s the only thing he is particular about. He doesn’t have a special toy or blanket, and it feels wrong to take this away from him before he is ready. I know I could take it away and endure a few nights of tantrums to “break the habit,” but why? What’s the difference between me taking it from him now or him deciding to give it up on his own when he’s ready?
I’m a critical thinker, so I try to consider the various outcomes of something like this. The pros and the cons, if you will. According to the American Dental Association, as long as a child discontinues pacifier use by the age of 4, it poses no risks regarding their dental health or development.
As far as my son’s emotional development goes, I can’t see that letting him use a pacifier is any more damaging than taking it away.
I have to wonder, would I still be thinking about this if his source of comfort was a ratty old teddy bear Probably not. My guilt is at the hands of society’s expectation and perception of normal. But the truth is, although it may not be considered normal by some standards, it’s not hurting anything. I’m not damaging him by allowing him this comfort measure.
There is a lot of maturing that will happen between now and the age of 4, and I think he will give up his bink long before then. If he doesn’t, we will cross that bridge when we get there.
I’m likely in the minority with my approach, and that’s okay. I’m no expert, but it’s a pacifier, not heroin, so as a mother, I think I’m still doing alright.
For the mamas out there wrestling with guilt over something like this, don’t. Let yourself off the hook. If you’re worried about something as trivial as a blanket, or a pacifier, or any of the millions of other little things that kids do when they’re young, you’re a great mom, because bad moms don’t worry about stuff like that.
This is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Save your worry for something that deserves it, and keep doing what’s best for you and your babies, even if the world disagrees.