For some reason, pacifiers are one of those parenting tools that people have a lot of opinions about. If someone sees a kid they think is too old to be sucking on a pacifier or riding in a stroller, it’s almost as if they think they owe the world their take on the matter. As if parents don’t have enough to worry about — now they need to worry about whether or not they’re relying too much on the tools that were invented to make their lives easier.
Yahoo Parenting responded to the question today, “My baby won’t wean off his pacifier: Should I freak out?” The site gives some sound advice, that can be summed up with “no.” But the long answer is that if you can get your kid off the pacifier between six and 12 months, it will be an easier feat. If you can’t, you should really try to get it out of your toddler’s mouth by the time he’s four to avoid tooth and speech problems. Four. That seems reassuring, right? Most mothers I’ve heard wonder and worry about whether they are allowing their child to use a pacifier too long have children who are still around a year old.
Why do we stress about this so much? I would guess it’s because of the judgment that exists around certain parenting choices — especially those that involve items that may soothe our children.
My first child loved the pacifier. He also still has a pillow he refuses to sleep without. Some children get more connected to things than others and have a harder time giving them up. I had heard the “self soothing” warnings before he was born, but I bought the pacifier anyway. I figured “better safe than sorry.” And I can’t even tell you how thrilled I was to have that little pacifier the first night in the hospital when he began howling inconsolably. I popped that thing in his mouth and never looked back.
I never thought about how appropriate or inappropriate it was for a child to be using a pacifier out of infancy. He liked it, so I let him use it. Then one day, a passive aggressive comment from another mother forced me to think about it. When he was about 15 months old, we were in a bathroom line at a Barnes and Noble, when a woman came out of a stall with her daughter and said, “Oh look. A toddler with a pacifier.”
First of all, don’t ever talk to another adult through your child. That is a level of passive aggression that is almost award-worthy. Second – why would you possibly care about how long another mother is allowing her child to use a pacifier? How is this affecting your life at all? I just stood there, dumbfounded. I didn’t understand why anyone would make it a point to publicly weigh in on that. And in such an odd manner.
The tools you decide to use to make parenting easier are nobody’s business but yours. Whether or not your child uses a pacifier says nothing about the quality of parent you are. My second child had no interest in a pacifier, special pillow or any other type of soothing object. I parented both of them exactly the same. So don’t think you are doing something wrong if your child wants to hold onto one of these things for a little while longer. Some experts think that if you take a pacifier away before a child is ready, he may end up using a replacement like his thumb or shirt collar.
The bottom line is, if you think your toddler’s pacifier use is getting excessive there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you wean him off it. But if you are only questioning it because of the judgment of others — don’t stress.
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