September 6, 2007

One of the many, many things that I foreswore ever doing as a parent, before becoming a parent, was giving my child a pacifier. I didn’t really have any good reason, other than disliking the look of them, but still, I’d decided: my child would not have some silicone dummy stuck to her face.

That noble intention was revised about 24 hours after Wonderbaby arrived. I wish that I could say that it was because the lactation consultant told us that it would help with her sucking reflex or because the nurse said that soothers were understood to reduce the risk of SIDS - and they did indeed say these things, which I later dutifully repeated to anyone who looked at me twice when I popped a soother in Wonderbaby’s mouth – but that wouldn’t, strictly speaking, be true. Those statements provided good justifications for the soother, but really? I padded down the hallway of the maternity ward to the tuck shop on the second day of Wonderbaby’s life and bought six soothers to stop the screaming that was becoming the hallmark of any efforts to get her to sleep. To put a cork in it, as it were.

And it worked, brilliantly. For months thereafter Her Bad Father and I would, when rallying our resources to get Wonderbaby to nap or settle down for the night, casually remind each other to cork her. And, thus corked (and soothed and swaddled), she would settle down, and even if she wasn’t so reliable with staying down for those daytime naps, she would always happily suck away for at least six hours of sleep at night. (I, of course, would lay awake all night, reassured by the happy sucking noises, but nonetheless on alert for the moment that a) the sucking stopped, or b) the sucking was replaced by a hungry cry.)

That she loved what came to be called her Soovy was clear early on. Once she was able to crawl, and later walk, she would advance upon unsuspecting children and snatch their pacifiers for herself (she usually imposed a swap – I would say negotiate, but Wonderbaby doesn’t negotiate – grabbing theirs and offering hers in return. Occasionally, if she was lacking a Soovy, she would simply appropriate one from another child, which was cause for much embarassment, but she would always return it when asked and when offered another in its stead. I did, needless to say, keep a stock of soovies with me at all times.) So it was that we were vigilant against the development of too extreme an attachment. We tried to reserve the Soovy for bedtime and naptime (such as it was) and emergencies, and at earliest opportunity we began suggesting to Wonderbaby that Soovy (along with Toadstool, nee Phallic Lovey) be left in bed in the morning and after naps and for a time she was entirely co-operative.

Then she started part-time daycare, and all was lost. It’s a long story, and one that I’m not up to writing about, but Wonderbaby didn’t immediately take to daycare. We went through gut-wrenching morning after gut-wrenching morning of child abandonment as we waited for her to adapt and, as we struggled through that process, it seemed to me too cruel to demand that she – abandoned by her sorry excuse for a mother – should be bereft of her loveys. So she was permitted to keep Soovy and Toadstool with her every morning.

And she has not let go of them since.

They’re like crack to her now, in a way that they never were before. Deprived of them for any amount of time, she will demand to know where they are (Where Toadstool? Where Soovy? SOOVYTOADSTOOL!!!) If we leave them at home, to, say, venture into public without our child clutching an oversized stuffed phallus and chomping on a soother, she will invariably cry and demand that we return home to fetch them (Home. HOME. SOOVYTOADSTOOLHOME!) (we do not, as a matter of course, give in to her demands. But grocery shopping has suddenly become very, very difficult.)

I’m not sure whether to be concerned about this or not. She’s not yet 22 months old, and is, I think, entitled to childish attachments. I don’t want to impose my prejudices and aesthetic judgments on her – I don’t like the look of the Soovy, I don’t like that she’s so attached to it, and I would prefer that she not drag a giant stuffed phallus around with her, but aren’t those my problems? (Problems, not incidentally, that I created myself. I didn’t disdain the Soovy when it helped her suckling reflex and facilitated sleep. And I thought that the phallus – sorry, Toadstool – was funny at first.) There’s plenty of time in our shared future for me to insist that she lose this or that offensive accessory, that she not dare walk our front door with whatever thing attached to her face, that she follow my rules under my roof, etc, etc. She’s not even two years old. Shouldn’t I cut her some slack?

So it is that I’ve decided (unilaterally; Her Bad Father still wants to fight the good fight against all things Soovy) to let it go. She can have her Soovy, for now.

But goddamn if I’m not going to have fun with it:

Portrait of Wonderbaby with upside-down custom hillbilly Soovy. Preshus.
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    Her Bad Mother September 6, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Lisa B – it was acquired from a shop in Yorkville, the name of which escapes me (across from the Starbucks at the corner of Bay, more or less). Billy Bob Pacifiers, I think the product is called.

    metro mama September 6, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Dude, McH and I are having the same battle. I say, whatever makes her happy. He’s trying to limit to nap and bed. They’ll give them up when they’re ready. (WB will give hers up sooner once she catches a look of herself in a mirror ;)

    nomotherearth September 6, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Man, that hillbilly soother freaks me out.

    I found a soother on the web and was going to send it to WB – it said “bad to the bone” on it.

    Personally, I feel that if you try to force her to give it up, it will only make her want it more. She will outgrow it.

    I get looks from others when the Boy sucks his thumb. I just let it go. It’s something he needs, and he will stop in his own time.

    Not a Princess September 6, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Here’s the main thing. WB has something other than your nekkid breast that soothes her in public. Oh what I would have given for that with my sweet Pumpkin. I actually flew from Dallas to Norfolk (3.5 hours) with my entire right breast exposed (in the very last row of the plane – you know the row where everyone waits for the lavatory to empty – because generally the loud engine noise would soothe said Pumpkin) in the middle seat between two unknown men. When the Pumpkin was an few days short of two years old I had some unexpected medical tests that necessitated the end of breastfeeding for 36 hours. I backslid a few times, the kid was a FIEND, but now he has a blankie and we don’t leave home without it. On the other hand, I get to cover up my breasts. (the Pumpkin’s 21 year old brother sucked his thumb until he was seven and a couple of years of braces at the same time that all his friends had them fixed it up just fine.) Let WB keep her lovie (although maybe you could find a new set of the rings for the TOADSTOOL on Ebay just for public purposes – I’ll probably email you some links later, I LOVE to be helpful) that is why the universe has orthodontists. At least the Toadstool doesn’t sing or hum or something if you put in batteries…

    jen September 6, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    my kid just turned three and won’t give up the sucker.

    who’s the sucker now, i think.

    Karen Rani September 6, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Ha! I featured those on and got reamed for making fun of people who don’t have access to dental care. WTF?

    I say have fun with it – those things are great and it’s not like she’ll be using it till she’s 16 or anything.

    Stimey September 7, 2007 at 12:08 am

    Baby 1: Horrified by pacifier. Refused to use it.

    Baby 2: After a week, gave him a pacifier. Horrified by the fact that my baby had a handle on his face. Then I loved it. Took it away at 6 months.

    Baby 3: Gave him a pacifier almost immediately. Let him have it for a year.

    You do what you have to do. Nothing wrong with a pacifier. And 22 months is pretty young. If it’s comforting, good for her.

    Kristen September 7, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Love the last one. Leah never took to a pacifier. She did have one for the first few months. Then she found it. The thumb. And I can’t break her of it. She gets tired and BAM. It goes in the mouth.

    And I am dying thinking about the looks you must get from nonparents in the stores with Wonderbaby carrying around the plush penis LOL.

    WONDERWOMAN September 7, 2007 at 2:30 am

    Well that’s the cutest thing ever, there is nothing that makes a cute child cuter than over exaggerated hillbilly teeth.

    ewe are here September 7, 2007 at 4:23 am

    Ahh, the binkie dilemma.

    I have to admit. I’m one of those who cringe slightly when I see mobile children with binkies stuck in their mouths. It just looks so wrong to me.

    We were advised by the midwives (surprisingly unanimous on this one) that if we were going to use them, only for the first 3 months, and then cut them off because they’ll never miss them at that point. So we did, and it worked.

    I wish you luck in breaking the habit…. although I do love that last picture!

    Pattie September 7, 2007 at 8:24 am

    Oh My God!!!! I am cracking up over here…didn’t see that picture coming

    You know, my middle child had her “binkies” until she was three. I used to get all sorts of looks, and some of my family members felt it was their job to remind me that my child was too old for her pacifier. I ignored their advice because I, like you, feel that it is perfectly healthy for a child to have an attachment. They DO give it up. The reason we transitioned her out of her pacifier by 3, was to protect her teeth. And I can tell you, she is almost 6 now, with beautiful teeth and no pacifer or other object in sight. She is confident and a secure little person.
    I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

    Mrs. Chicky September 7, 2007 at 8:43 am

    In the early days of Chicky’s life we would beg her to take a pacifier (have you ever begged a newborn? thought so) if only to give my poor breasts a break. But she was having nothing to do with it. Now we don’t have to deal with getting her to give it up, but those early days would have been so much easier with one.

    I say let her have it. She’s a smart girl, she’ll tell you when she’s ready.

    chicken September 7, 2007 at 9:43 am

    When my youngest son was 3 he developed an attachment to a small kitchen plunger. It was a love affair no one understood. He took it with him everywhere…preschool, the grocery store, grandmas house (who, incidentally found this the most amusing.) We were always prepared for any kind of impromptu sewage emergency, but honestly, one never arose. He is over the plunger now…at age 6…but still has an affection for them that no one understands.

    Damselfly September 7, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Hysterical picture!

    anniemom September 7, 2007 at 10:46 am

    My son’s pediatrician told me that he needed to learn to self-soothe at 6 weeks. Sh#t! I’m in my 30′s and can’t self-soothe… that’s why we have art and literature and music and liquor. So the Soovy and the Toadstool? I say they stay. :)

    linda September 7, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I had a mostly unhappy, hard-to-soothe infant. Before she was born, I had no plans to introduce a dummy. It took us 3-4 weeks after she was born to change our minds and see it as the holy grail. Sure, she became addicted, but it did help life and save our sanity. (It’s called NukNuk in our house, after the brand name.)Around the age of 2, we tried (not always successfully, but it was easier than we expected) to limit its use to bedtime and long car trips. She is 4 now and still uses it to fall asleep, but she spits out soon after. Her dentist expresses mild concern, but I think it’s mostly harmless and, in my house, it saved lives. I say: don’t fight the Soovy and make a huge issue of it, but try to find ways, if you can, to limit its use.

    TB September 7, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I lost the pacifier battle too, although it took a month for me to give in to the inevitable.
    Now I keep telling myself that we’ll be getting rid of it when Myles is old enough to self soothe. I’m living in fantasyland, aren’t I?

    Kendra September 7, 2007 at 11:44 am

    We called them a mimi. We were around 2 years old, we got to put the mimi under our pillow one night and the mimi fairy came and left us a toy on the end of the bed and the mimi was gone. I think it helped my parents because when we got tired of the toy and asked for the mimi, they could say they were sorry, but the mimi fairy took it. I wanted to use that on my kid, but she is a finger sucker and never wanted the mimi. I wished for the plug some nights though.

    pinks & Blues Girls September 7, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    That is hilarious. At least the giant phallus isn’t the one she wants to have sticking out of her mouth. That would be troublesome.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

    Her Bad Mother September 7, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    P&B – would it disturb you if I told you that Toadstool – aka the Phallus – is sometimes hanging out of her mouth? She sometimes likes to chew on the long end.

    Yeah, I know. Nice.

    Lisa September 7, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I LOVE that last photo. Laughed out loud and actually spit some of my soda onto my screen. I love those big, blue eyes. And that Soovy. AWESOME.

    kittenpie September 7, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    I gave into the sucky once I gave up on getting a latch. Before that, I had avoided anything that might invoke the dreaded nipple confusion. But I did enjoy her having it, and once she went to daycare, she had it for naps and bedtime, but it was there if she needed it for comfort at other times. She didn’t need it much, and they kept it out of reach unless she needed it. Then, gradually, they stopped giving it to her for naps. A little while later, we started “forgetting” it at bedtime, and after two days, she didn’t even ask. done. if it had been harder, I may have let her keep it a bit longer, but she was about 2.5 when I took away the bedtime sucky.

    Heather September 7, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    My daughter did not care for the “binkie”. She used it a handful of times as an infant, then only as we went into Wal-Mart as a toddler (who can blame her?).

    My son loved his “ginkie”

    He gave it up fairly recently.

    But I have all sorts of things that I do my own wrong way!

    Do things your own wrong way!

    Liz September 7, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Oh, Catherine. I could’ve written this post (though not nearly as eloquently as you).
    The binky was the first of many things on my Things I’ll Never Do When I’m a Parent list. As in, 24 hours at home and with bleeding nipples, I put a cork in Henry.
    He loves his “innnnkey” and we try to only allow him it for the crib (which is only for sleeping) and the car. And since we’re rarely in the car (YAY city living!), it’s mostly just at bed. And we say “Bye bye binky! See you at nap time” as he uncorks himself and pitches his Nuk to the mattress. He even waves.
    But lately? He’s been asking to go to his room, and we think he’s sleepy and ready for a nap. Not so much. He’ll go and have Binky Time for a half-hour, happy as a clam in the dark.

    moosh in indy. September 8, 2007 at 4:07 am

    I was never going to do binks.
    Then it came time to take them away. (Not for any reason more than I was judging myself)
    I will avoid all binks next time around.
    Oh, and I have all sorts of posts about the binky bye bye trauma. I’d be happy to share.

    Mrs. Mustard September 8, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Soothers saved our sanity. I held out at first, because our initial trial with them interfered with Sacha’s ability to nurse. But after his marathon nursing sessions that made my breasts raw and my husband seeing me wince everytime he latched on, we went for it. Now, Sacha is hooked. He’s 1 now, and in NO rush to give up his suce. In fact, he likes to have one in his mouth and one in each hand for good measure. I’m not going to worry about it until he’s 2…lol!

    Naomi (Urban Mummy) September 9, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    I hate pacifiers. Really hate them. Especially on 5 year olds in the mall.

    That being said, The Happy Boy did have one – i needed it to preserve my sanity when he was 2 months old and crying all the time.

    He was so attached to it. We eventually got him down to bedtime and naps. ANd then, when he was just over 2, he decided to give it up. Just like that.

    So there is hope!

    (never did give one to the baby boy, though. He just used me!)

    Jaelithe September 9, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    1.) I think pacifier attachment is quite common at this age, and although WB’s behavior is obviously annoying you at times, I don’t think you should feel guilty about it. It’s one of those things that sneaks up on you.

    2.) Be thankful that she is attached to things you can one day take away.

    My son refused all pacifiers and loveys as a baby, and instead chose to soothe himself by sucking on his right index finger.

    As a matter of fact, I am convinced that his blurry ultrasound picture shows him sucking on that finger.

    He used to do this eagerly whenever he was frightened or tired, and as a result, he developed a permanent callus on his finger, and he disdained to use it for pointing or picking things up with, even though he is right-handed, which means, of course, that he was constantly flipping people off.

    He sucks on the finger less often these past several months, and he has gotten a bit better about using the index finger, but only through constant reminders.

    He still does it now to get to sleep at night, and I’ve no way of stopping him, ever. I’ve tried putting soap on his finger to make it taste bitter; it doesn’t work.

    I can’t chop his finger off, for heaven’s sake.

    Lady M September 10, 2007 at 6:47 am

    At two and a half, Q hasn’t given up his “pup” yet, but he only gets them at sleeptime. We keep them in the fridge, because he can’t open the door and get to them. Chilly pacifiers, the world’s latest fad.

    Mimi aka pz5wjj September 10, 2007 at 8:36 am

    My oldest gave his dummy up on his own at 3. I was fine with it. He needed it. He is 6 1/2 and still has “oral” issues — he sucks his t-shirts, licks his fingers, chews his nails.

    My youngest (almost 3) never needed a dummy like the older one. We took it away at 12 months and he wasn’t bothered.

    It is difficult because there is a bit of social stigma attatched. I say just do what works for you! She won’t have it forever!

    mo-wo September 11, 2007 at 1:44 am

    I’m sorta the pacifier.. and that attracts some criticism. HEck what’s a parenting day without a little fear of society’s ambiguous expectations?

    Phoenix September 11, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    There’s 81 people above me who have shared their opinions, I’m sure. But I still thought I’d add mine in.

    I’d let her keep it and don’t say anything about it for awhile. My best friend, who’s a nurse let her kids keep them until they were three and by then they were old enough to understand giving them up. At not yet two, WB wouldn’t get it and it would be horrible for you.

    Nancy September 12, 2007 at 9:42 am

    In my pre-children days I’d internally tsk when I saw older toddlers running around with pacifiers. I swore my kids would never use them.

    Well, yeah, you know how that goes. Mimi gave up the paci around 2 1/2, but sucks her thumb. We stopped giving Rosie the paci about 3 months ago — went cold turkey at night (she wasn’t using it at naptime, so we knew she could sleep without it). One night of hell, a second night of half-hearted protests, and she’s fine.

    So it’s doable. But if you don’t want to go that route, WB will surely give it up when she’s ready.

    pkzcass September 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    My boys never really cared for pacifiers, but they loved their bottles. I let them drink out of the bottle till they were 3. Then the bottle fairy came and took it away. Then they switched to sippy cups and my older son was in third grade before he decided he didn’t need his warm chocolate milk in the morning sippy cup. My younger son is 8 and just started 3rd grade, and he’s still drinking from a sippy cup. Okay, the rubber stopper thingy is gone from the lid, but it’s the best way for me to get a good serving of milk into him each day. It’s not that he CAN’T drink from other cups, but since he still gets his milk in bed in the mornings, I’d rather he use the cup with the lid.

    I’m an educated woman. I read child-rearing books, my older son is well-adjusted, well-behaved, in the gifted program, and kind to his classmates. Letting him have a bottle till he was three and a sippy cup till he was 8 did not hurt him one bit.

    WB will give it up eventually. So for now, relax and let her have it since it seems she really needs it. Hey, I sleep with a stuffed dog and I’m 43. If I don’t have the damned thing, I’m not getting any sleep that night. Substituting my husband just isn’t the same.

    iheartchocolate October 6, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    What a picture! Wonder baby’s eyes in that picture are so intent and almost sad, as if she knows what you are contemplating.

    My 22 mo old has her attachements, “miniiiii” is blanky and she’s got to have it. If I took her somewhere, I would make sure to take it in the car…just in case. I JUST broke her of the bottle recently. It was not nearly as bad as I thought. Hopefully this won’t be so bad for you. ;)

    Nil Zed June 28, 2008 at 4:29 am

    I was from a non-binky family, and quite proud/releived that my first two kids ‘found’ a finger or thumb within hours of giving birth, that comforted them until, well, they quit sucking it.

    But baby #3 was clueless about this, and I reluctantly introduced a dummy (I’m in UK, so…) at about 6 months of age. Heaven. He can have it as long as he wants. Though I hope by this time next year, just after his 2nd birthday, when we go home to a big family wedding, that he will have given it up. You know, just to save ME the hassle of disapproving family members. cause it’s all about me, right?

    Shonda Little July 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I have a thumb sucker who will likely never be broken. Kinda karma since pre-baby I made fun of my husband for his lengthy thumb sucking career.

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