Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your kid is still using a pacifier — and family members have big feelings about it? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
My daughter is three and a half and still uses her pacifier, and I don’t see her wanting to wean off of it any time soon. I don’t have a problem with this; she is eating and drinking with regular utensils and cups and developmentally is meeting all her other milestones, so it isn’t hindering her in any way. She just uses it for comfort and I don’t want to take it away from her, especially since it isn’t causing any problems. But my MIL is insistent that my daughter is too old for a paci and when she sees her sucking on it, either takes it away from her or says things like, “You’re too big to be a binky baby.” It really pisses me off and I’m getting to the point where I don’t want my MIL to see her granddaughter. How can I get her to mind her own business and just let my daughter and her pacifier be?!
Well, we can put this argument to bed right now: tell your mother-in-law that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s okay to use a pacifier up to four years old, so your daughter is officially still within the “acceptable” range.
You know what will also put it to bed? Saying, “Thanks for your input on my parenting decisions, but this is my child to raise.” Because seriously, it’s nobody else’s business. Not even if that someone else is your child’s grandma.
Consider your daughter’s perspective: to her, it’s a comfort thing, and taking it away cold turkey just because she’s been deemed “too old” isn’t going to do her any good. Neither is making her feel like it’s something that she’s doing wrong or should be ashamed of. Maybe your MIL doesn’t realize that — I’m sure she means well — but she isn’t helping matters.
It would hurt your MIL much more to take her granddaughter away from her than to simply tell her the truth: that you feel fine about your daughter still using a pacifier, and that you don’t need her judgment. Especially since it sounds like she’s being an asshole about it (pacifier-shaming a three-year-old? Really?). You can explain your viewpoint if you want — though you don’t owe her an explanation for your parenting choices by any means — and then firmly remind her that it’s your choice to make, and to please stop mentioning it to your daughter.
The Mayo Clinic reports that most kids naturally stop using their pacifiers on their own between the ages of two and four — so your daughter may decide within the next few months that she’s done with it anyway. And if she doesn’t, there are steps you can take to discourage its use, like redirecting her attention to something else when she asks for the pacifier, or cutting the tip off so it feels different (and therefore less enjoyable).
Bottom line: you won’t be dropping your daughter off at her college dorm someday with a pacifier in her mouth. And your MIL has already had her shot at raising children. Your child, your choices … and nobody else’s business.