At 18 months, my daughter is certifiably addicted to her pacifier. Like she can’t even see pictures of babies with pacifiers in their mouthes before she starts smacking her lips in desperate need for a pacifier herself. You know how people say “Don’t worry. They won’t go off to college doing that!” Well, I’m not so sure that she won’t need me to pack her stash of pacifiers along with Target’s entire dorm decor collection. She’s so addicted that I envision her friends throwing a How I Met Your Mother-style intervention party for her at the age of 25. Girl got it bad for those pacis. And I am totally her enabler.
This is where people will say “That’s why I never gave my baby a pacifier!” or “I cut it off cold turkey at 12 months because I didn’t want it to be a bigger issue!” To those people I say, good for you. My kid refused to sleep longer than four consecutive hours until she was 8 1/2 months. So please understand why after only 3.5 months of enjoying a baby that technically slept through the night (although was up between 4:30-5:15am consistently) I wasn’t too keen on taking away the one thing that soothed her into an undisturbed sleep.
It’s funny, not in a “haha” sort of way, but I think all of her sleep problems began with the pacifier. It started around 2 months when I decided I had enough of her using my boobs in lieu of a pacifier. Previous attempts to give her a pacifier resulted in her gagging and giving me such stink-eye for it that I feared she was going to need therapy one day. Thus, I took to a Mom’s Facebook group to solicit advice as to the best pacifier for a kid that previously wanted nothing to do with it.
The Tommee Tippee “closer to nature” pacifier was recommended and amazingly, she took to it within 2-3 tries. There was a collective sigh of relief on both our parts as she drifted off to sleep and my nipples were safe for the time being.
A mere four days later the sleep problems began. Up until that point she was a decent nighttime sleeper. Not the unicorn that my son was – he was going 10 hours straight by 8 weeks – but she would do a 5/6-hour stretch and then wake every 3 hours until getting up for the day around 630/7. Her “long” stretch started shortening and she would only go about 4 hours. After that she was up every two hours…and then sometimes it was every 45 minutes to an hour that she was waking up. I immediately went into overdrive trying to diagnose the issue. It must be something I ate. But because I’m too much of a fatty to change my diet I never really explored that option. I’m not sleeping AND you want me to give up cheese? No thank you. I bought every gas relief product on the market instead. Tried about 3-4 different types of swaddling blankets. White noise, projector screens, etc. None of it worked. Then it dawned on me. It was the damn pacifier. Every time that thing fell out of her mouth she would wake up until something – boob or paci – got put in there and she could fall back asleep. The launch of my “save the nipples” campaign had failed miserably. I would gladly have traded chapped, sore nips for some decent shut-eye. But there was no going back. She had a hit of that pacifier goodness and nothing else would do.
During this time I was calling the pediatrician every 2-3 days and texting my pediatrician friend daily. I was a mombie. I was desperate. Finally, our ped confirmed that it was probably the pacifier and we were at a crossroads now that she was nearing 4 months: we could either start sleep training and take it away completely…or we would have to wait until she was 6 months and hit that developmental milestone where she realized that something was still there even if it fell out of her line of vision. At which point, our pediatrician told us to make it rain pacifiers so she could always find one. Okay, “make it rain” isn’t a medical term but that’s basically what she said.
We tried to take it away. Misery for all ensued. She was still waking every three hours and it was taking her 30-45 minutes per night to fall asleep “on her own” because she wanted that sweet sweet pacifier. Finally, I caved. I was traveling solo with my kids to see family in Ohio and I took out my “in case of emergency” pacifiers and she started sleeping better. And by better I mean “marginally less terrible than before”. We’ve been hardcore pacifier ever since.
The thing is, I am so weak when it comes to the pacifier. Not only does it help her sleep, it helps her be a more tolerable person. With AJR, he was at daycare 8 hours a day and it was easy for me to say “please don’t give him the pacifier unless he’s napping” and roll my eyes with a heavy sigh if I walked in at 5:15pm and saw him sucking away on one after his teachers had disobeyed my explicit instructions. Now, being around Olivia 24/7, I realize that you can only do so much and sometimes for both of your sakes, you have to give in and allow them that comfort. There is simply a limit to how much whining/crying/screeching a human being can endure and I am so far past that limit that I’m surprised I’m not walking around with a wine-dispensing helmet. The pacifier is my lifeline. My crutch. The one thing I can throw to her when all of my snack offerings have failed and she’s still clinging to my leg like a rabid Koala that found out my pants were made of Eucalyptus. It’s seriously a drug for both of us. As soon as that pacifier hits her lips, her precious blue eyes roll up into her head for a moment and I breathe a deep sigh of relief as I am rewarded with momentary silence.
I swore up and down I wouldn’t be one of those parents whose kid walked around with a pacifier. And karma, like the bitch she is, bestowed upon me a child who is sometimes just happier and more content when her mouth hole is all plugged up. I roll with extra pacifiers in my bag at all times after making the grave mistake of leaving the house without one. It only happened one time. The experience left me scarred and I break into a cold sweat when I recall those 15 minutes I spent in the 7th circle of hell.
She’s only 18 months old, which after having a 3 1/2 year old to compare her to, is still very little. That said, I know the day of reckoning will need to come soon. Weaning will not be easy. One of Olivia’s most in infuriating qualities is her stubbornness. A quality I hope will serve some purpose when it comes to refusing boys and drugs as she gets older. But when it comes to weaning, I know it’s going to be a full out war. I may need to hire the real Elmo to come in and take away the pacifiers and replace it with a unicorn that poops jelly beans if it’s ever going to happen.
My ultimate goal is for her to only use it for naps/bedtime. And maybe long car rides. Or when I’m trying to get dinner ready and she’s not having it. Sigh. We may both need to enter a pacifier detox program to get through this…