Mother Muse: Seven Ways to Lose a Pacifier

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toddler with pacifierPacifier, paci, peace-maker, plug, nook, binky. Call it what you will. There has been a lot of talk about these little miracles in our house over the last three years. Both of our children, notoriously strong suckers from birth, were given a pacifier within the first day of their life.

When our oldest, Oliver, turned two we started thinking about the inevitable and proceeded to spend the next year fielding suggestions, racking our brains, and considering the question, what's the best way to quit the habit and stop the sucking?

Don't give your baby a pacifier to begin with. This seems logical, but we blew it in May of 2004 when Oliver entered the world with lips like a fish looking for oxygen. Our hospital provided us with two MAMs -- one yellow and one blue -- and as a sore, tired new mother, I welcomed them both. On that day we officially became a pacifier family and have never looked back.

Quit cold turkey. For a stronger woman, this might be the best way. But by three, Oliver was persistent and I was wary. Having witnessed impressive tantrums over lesser requests, I speculated that denying him his preferred source of comfort was easier said than done. I knew myself well enough to know that this was one fight I was not prepared to pick.

Tie the pacifier to a balloon and let it fly away. It was our fault that we had waited to pluck the pacifier until Oliver was cognizant enough to understand simple consequences and sharp enough to ask relevant questions. Where is the balloon going? Why is my paci flying away? When will the balloon come back? I suspected he would miss the beauty of the moment...the grand departure of a faithful companion on an exciting adventure, off to a new place. As poetic as it sounds, it would surely end with tears and frantic, skyward calisthenics.

Put the pacifier in a box, wrap it up, and give it to a new baby friend. By the time we checked under his toddler bed and in all of our coat pockets, our stock was at least a half dozen deep. There weren't enough babies being born to accept all of our pacifiers. And though we could have provided one newborn with a lifetime supply, we weren't sure we wanted Oliver to associate sweet little babies with the evil creatures that possess his pacifiers...especially since our new baby was on his way.

Cut a hole in the pacifier. Our pediatrician suggested that we cut a hole in the fat part of the pacifier, rendering it useless. "That way," she said, "he'll become frustrated with the pacifier and not want it anymore."

We liked this idea and had the chance to try it out when my mother's poodle found Oliver's pacifier and bit off the bubble. Oliver discovered the wounded pacifier before we did and not only did he still want it, but he wanted it to work the way it was supposed to. There were tears so big and eyes so sad that a replacement pacifier was magically retrieved from the bottom of the diaper bag and slyly slipped to him within a matter of minutes. It was at this moment that my husband and I realized a humbling truth...we were in fact the real suckers.

Slowly wean. Eventually we got tough and only allowed Oliver to use his pacifier in his bed. A passionate child and an easily frustrated three-year-old, he took to "paci-breaks" when life got hard. When Oliver needed time to think, he would retreat to his bed for a break. When he was upset about something and realized the need to cool down, off he went to find his paci amid his blankets. Sometimes, I think he just got plain annoyed by his parents and went off to find some solitude and some time with his paci. Never before had I so clearly understood the idea of oral fixation as when it was played out in front of my eyes a dozen times each day.

Stage a visit from the "Paci-Fairy." This requires stealth, wealth, creativity, and lies. And in the end, it's what worked for us. Oliver went to bed one night knowing that the "Paci-Fairy" would be lurking happily while he slept. After weeks of weaning we were down to two pacifiers. Oliver placed both of them under his bed (fairly unaffected, I might add) and found a talking, walking, light-up Optimus Prime Transformer in their place the next morning. Mission accomplished.

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