The Passion for the Pacifier

I spoke too soon. I knew saying it would bite me in the butt. Remember when I gloated over two parental wins – Rose quitting her pacifier and Christian crying himself to sleep? Well, it turns out we weren’t quite as successful as we thought.

It seems we can still maintain one victory – Christian crying himself to sleep – but Rose quitting the pacifier? I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Since the first week, when we thought we’d licked the pacifier habit (and I wrote a whole post about it), Rose decided that she did not want to give it up. First she decided she couldn’t sleep without it.

“Iiiiiii waaant a paaaaciiii,” she’d moan as we tucked her in.

“If you sleep without it you’ll get a surprise in the morning,” I’d say.

“What is it?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“Ohhh kaaay,” she frowned, lowering her head to the pillow.

“That’s my big girl!” I’d say, walking away smiling.

Eight minutes later, “Mooommyyy!!”

“What is it, Baby?”

“Iiiiii waaaant a paaacciii,” she’d moan.

“But what about your surprise? You can’t have it if you have your paci.”

“I want my paaacciiii!”

“Just try to go to sleep. Try for five minutes and see, okay?”

“Okay,” she sniffed.

“Just lie down and close your eyes and you won’t even notice,” I’d say, walking away.

Two minutes later, “Moooommmmyyyy!”

“I waaant myyy paaaaciii. Please Mommy!”

Sigh, “Okay. I’ll get it.” We’ll quit tomorrow. It’s the only way we’re gonna get any sleep tonight.

But we didn’t quit tomorrow. We tried, but she just would not stop crying or fall asleep and we couldn’t take anymore.

For a while, she was ok with the pacifiers I’d cut off at the tips, but then her brother’s pacis started disappearing. When we put Rose to bed — nap or nighttime — she’d lie down with one arm under her pillow. The first time I reached under, I found one of Christian’s pacis, with her hair wrapped around the base. She likes to do that with her hair. Yes, it’s gross, but we can’t stop her. It started once we cut her hair too short for her to chew on. She reaches up, plucks out a few hairs, puts them in her mouth and wraps them around her pacifier. Since her hair was already on it and she was just getting to bed, she must have used it already – at nap time or last night. Great. I confiscated the offending Binky.

“Nooooo! I waaant it. I waaant it,” she sobbed.

“Baby, this is your brother’s. You have your own paci.”

“I want one with no hole in it,” she sobbed.

“Rose, you’ve got to give up your paci. You can use these for now but you can’t use your brother’s.”

“But he can use it,” she said.

“That’s because he’s a baby. Pacis are for babies.”

“I waaaanna be a baaaaby!”

“Oh, Honey, you’re a grown-up girl. You can do so many things babies can’t do. If you were a baby, you couldn’t go to preschool, or swing so high, or watch Dora.”

“I just waaaant a paaaci,” she sobbed.

“You have one. Use the one you have.”

“I want one of Christian’s!”

“I’m sorry, Baby, this is what you get,” I said.

And that happened every nap and every night, until she was able to steal another paci. I noticed she was unusually happy at nap time, with her arm under her pillow, so I reached under and grabbed another paci, making her cry.

“I WAAANT IT!” she screamed.

“Baby, no. You have your own paci,” I walked away.


She’s still using her pacis to go to sleep. Both have the tips cut off, and she’d rather have them intact, but she settles for them because they’re all she’s got. Today I cut them down a little more. She didn’t seem to notice. I’m hoping that the smaller they get, the less she’ll need them but realistically, the smaller they get, the harder she’ll work to steal her brother’s pacifiers. She can’t use them forever, but I’m not sure how hard I should push, either. Right now, he brother wakes up early. Matt gets up with him and then goes back to sleep when I get up, but neither of us are getting enough sleep. It’s not easy for us to motivate to stay up late with Rose, too.

The other thing is that Rose is doing really well on her potty training. She averages one accident a day, which is ok for now, but she has to get better by August, when she goes to a new camp. The camp requires children to have “independent toileting skills” as I read in the camp manifesto when I signed her up. I’m afraid that if she has an accident or two, they’ll kick her out, and I need the childcare. So we need to focus on potty training. That said, last year we put off potty training until after her brother was born because I wanted her to deal with one thing at a time, plus she’s the type of kid to regress. She would totally have gone back to diapers when Christian was born.

We never intended to put off paci quitting. There was just never a time when we thought, Hey, this is the perfect time to lose sleep for a few weeks. Let’s do it! Her dentist told me last year that three is the magic number when it comes to pacifiers. They’ve got to give them up by their third birthday. Rose is three-and-a-half and instead of forcing her to give up her paci, I put off getting her dental checkup. She has an overbite that either comes from my genes or my inability to clamp down and take away the paci. The dentist warned me that her overbite would only get worse, and every day it gnaws at me that it’s my fault the kids will call her “Rabbit Face” or “Chipmunk,” and that she’ll hate her braces because our insurance won’t pay for the clear kind.

This is not my proudest parenting moment, but when I think of all that pacifier did for me – all the sleep it facilitated, all the crying it curtailed, all the boo-boos it bandaged – I can see why I’m having such a hard time letting it go. That paci was the Robin to my Batman, my trusty sidearm, my ace-in-the-hole. Considering how difficult it’s been for Rose to quit, we did consider opting out of the paci habit entirely with Christian, but we decided against it. We decided that we need our pacifier. Once it’s gone, as we’ve seen, nothing can take its place. I just hope we survive the withdrawal.