When I became a mother for the first time, I took all the advice, recommendations, and Internet suggestions I could get, because I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t, but back then I hadn’t accepted that none of us really do. I was certain that women who had done this before would give me the instructions for raising a kid.
I Googled all the things, and read thread after thread of responses on mommy-boards. Having a kid is like the world’s most perplexing Rubik’s Cube. Twist here, turn there, but just like a Rubik’s Cube there is more than one solution.
The first year of motherhood was a little rocky. I tried to do everything the “right way,” the way others suggested I should do it. I tried to meet the expectations of society, and everyone around me, but it nearly broke me. Here’s what I really learned that first year: babies are intuitive, they pick up what you put out there. If you are stressed, they are stressed. If you are relaxed and at ease, they will be relaxed and at ease. Once I figured this out, it was the guiding force behind every parenting decision I made. I threw the proverbial handbook out the window and never looked back.
I’ll warn you, most of my parenting methods go against what society deems normal, but fortunately for me, I don’t subscribe to the idea of normal, because there is no such thing. I parent from a place of comfort and security—for my children and for myself. Which is why I don’t care how long my children use their pacifiers.
That’s right, I’m the mom with the toddler using a pacifier in the grocery store. Or I was, I should say, because my kids are older now—and they’re just fine, might I add.
My youngest carried his around the longest, he was three when he finally gave it up. I let him have it as long as he wanted, without pressure to give it up. If he was tired, upset, or scared, his pacifier easily calmed him. I talked with his pediatrician and his dentist regularly about his pacifier use. You may be surprised to learn that the American Dental Association recommends discontinuation of pacifier use by the age of four. We made sure to check his teeth and his bite, both of which are fine. He doesn’t have any issues with his speech, and is just as wildly-perfect as every other kid on the playground.
It’s not unusual for kids to have a special comfort item. Some kids have a special stuffed animal or a blanket. Other kids, like mine, have pacifiers. When they find their footing in the world, they let go of those items. Making sure they feel secure, loved, and supported is a big part of this. Kids don’t understand why parents are taking away their comfort item.
I’m not here to judge anyone, because I really feel that parenting is a very personal experience. Cut other parents some slack. What does it matter if a toddler has a pacifier? Why does this bother you? Your stares, comments, and opinions hold weight. Do you want to be the reason another mother questions herself? Why?
As confident as I feel some days, I still question myself others. I weigh the pros and cons of my choices every day. We all do. But this—a pacifier—it’s just not a big deal. They’ll give it up when they are ready. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for allowing your child comfort, because at the end of day, this is your kid, not theirs.