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The pacifier

binky blingMy first baby was not going to use a pacifier.

How awful they looked, like garish plastic plugs. They were tooth-terrorizing drool dams. I likened them to baby’s first bubble gum, smacked and sucked and chomped on rudely. Pacifiers were a crutch for lazy, uncaring parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t take the time to delve into the reasons behind crying.

I had visions of how it would be between the two of us. I’d be the mother in the white cotton lace trimmed gown rocking the Gerber baby near a window looking out onto a misty meadow whilst violins soared. A gaudy plastic pacifier was never jammed between those rosebud lips.

One night, when she was about three weeks old, I stood in her bedroom swaying her bundled body and crying right along with her. She was fed, dry, and swaddled. My husband and I looked at each other and the fraying ends of our ropes. One of us suggested getting a pacifier.

They were buried on the bottom shelf of the changing table, still in their packages—unwelcome gifts from a baby shower. While I rocked, he boiled water to sterilize the pacifiers. After five minutes rollicking in the boil, they were ready. We ran them under cold water. I placed one to her lips. The business end disappeared and so did her cries.

Something amazing didn’t happen. My newborn daughter didn’t warp into a junior version of Rosanne abusing a stick of gum in her wisecracking mouth. A mullet didn’t sprout from her downy scalp. She was peaceful, and at that moment there was nothing more beautiful than feeling we had helped our daughter and ourselves by making a good parenting decision—to let go of a preconceived notion of how it should be done.

So began our daughter’s long, passionate regard for the pacifier. In my dad’s side of the family, pacifiers were called “schnoolies” so we did the same. Then one day, at the mall, an elderly man approached Aidan in her stroller and declared, “Look at that little guy and his stooley!” He chuckled and walked off. We thought it was funny because Aidan was clearly not a little guy and the word he used was so close to our word for pacifier. We began to call it “stooley” too.

As she grew, she renamed it “choo choo” which we adopted. Choo Choo got her through the transitional weeks after her baby brother Ryley (who never used a Choo Choo because he didn’t need it) was born. On her second birthday Choo Choo went Bye Bye Cold Cold Turkey Turkey. We had been warning her for months the day was coming when Choo Choo would have to go, so she accepted it very well.

Sammy was a triple fisted Choo Choo man, often having one in his mouth and one in each hand. He’d switch them around according to a mysterious formula he devised, probably based on taste, temperature, and texture. Tommy took tender care of his charges, rarely losing them under the car seat or rudely throwing them across the mall parking lot. He further refined the name to “Coo Coo” where it stands today. Joel also used Coo Coos, but not as long as the other boys or Aidan.

I said I’d never co-sleep. We did. I never imagined nursing past a year. I did. I wasn’t going to let my kids drink pop, eat a McNugget, or watch “The Simpsons”. I have. Did I cave? Was I weak? Joel screams “BlickDonald’s!!” when he spies the golden arches during our travels around town.

Some may see that as a horrifying sign of bad mothering. I think of it as sight-reading.

Whether or not the new baby is introduced to our pal Coo Coo is entirely up to the baby. His or her disposition will be the deciding factor. It’s the first act of trust I demonstrate to our little ones. It has to start somewhere, at some time. Of course my husband and I are the ultimate authorities and will give and take the Coo Coo as we deem fit—but I’d never dream of taking it away just because of some sort of twisted mother-pride that demands I cling to a certain set of dos and don’ts outlined in a book, on a website, or in a gauzy dream formed by the mind of sheer inexperience. The lace on that nightgown itches, anyway.

~~~The picture is from, where you can purchase this $17,000 white gold and diamond encrusted pacifier.

29 comments to The pacifier

  • Great post, once again!

    How many plastic pacifiers from Wal-mart could you get for $17,000?! That’s just crazy! At the rate my kids lost them, we’d be buried in debt!

  • Very well said. My mothering has not matched what I’d envisioned for Sam starting with the birth itself. And that’s ok; we hadn’t met yet. He never did take to the “baba” though, much to our chagrine.

    I’m thinking that white gold number would be a nice start to a college fund.

  • Nini

    I completely and totally agree! As always you have wonderful insight into the ways and woes of motherhood.

  • Lovely post, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. My Tommy has never liked pacifiers, despite my mother’s consistant, persistant efforts to get him to be “binky” dependent.

    I swore I would not let Tom watch any TV until he was over age two, but occasionally he watches such mind-numbing favorites as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with us in the evening. I hope he doesn’t turn out to have ADD.

    The most important part of mothering is being able to go with the flow, and to do what your child needs – so long as it’s not dangerous or detrimental.

  • Stacey

    Great post!
    I wasn’t going to use the binky with my firstborn either, but that got thrown out the window while we were still in the hospital. The nurse actually suggested it telling me an infant needs to suck to be soothed, and since he was using me as a pacifier, my boobs were thankful to her!
    He used his “B” until shortly before he turned 3yo when he accidentally bit the end off, declared it broken, and threw it in the trash can. That was that!

    My 18 mos old is still using his paci, or “dee-dee” in his case. He’s my double-fisted dee-dee user, not happy unless he’s got one in the mouth and another in his hand, or very nearby. 🙂

    Stooley…gotta love that! Wonder where that name came from?

  • JKS

    Amen to that post!! Our daughter (who is 2) has a massive desire to suck. She used a pacifier but gave it up when she found her fingers.

    My favorite line: “The lace on that nightgown itches, anyway.”

    I have found it hard to give up on the unrealistic ideals as a first time mom. When I do, it’s a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the post!

  • I have a triple-fisted Choo-Chooer also. Our first child called it a “Fie” (as in paciFIEr), and it stuck, so that’s our name for it.

  • I like this post.

    I like how human and how responsive it is. I like how it shows how much pride is a part of each of us that often has to be overcome. I like that you were and are so willing to do so–I think it makes the best parent.

  • hamster

    Oh, how I wish my kids would take a pacifier. The other night (at around 3 am) after H rejected (again) all three pacifiers we’d tried, I was near tears and asking R why he hadn’t bought the $9 disney pacifier the day before — I knew the answer, he thought $9 was too much for a pacifier, and he’s right, but after H rejected the other three types he’d come home with I felt certain the Disney characters would make a difference. The next day he brought it home, and no, H didn’t want that one either. Even in the NICU, all the babies sucked happily on pacifiers, while H’s lay next to his head. So, the moms you see who aren’t using pacifiers may not be making a political statement, they may merely have babies who spit them out.

  • I encouraged binky use for the above reasons, and also for this reason: it keeps them from putting other dirtier things in their mouths.

    My favorite line: “A mullet didn’t sprout from her downy scalp!” Tee hee!

    There was a little boy I used to know who had to have two pacifiers in his mouth at once, stacked. We called it “the rhino”. It was pretty impressive. I think he even managed three once.

  • I was very against pacifiers before I started working in the neonatal unit, now I’m their biggest fan!
    Over here we call them soothers, or dummies. Growing up in Ireland a lot of people called the a dodi pronounced dough-dee!
    Anyway, if our baby decides he/she may benefit from a dodi, then that is what he/she will have!

  • Wow! I was thinking how cute that pacifier was! Well, I’m thinking again! Sheesh!

    Anyway…I wasn’t going to “let” my kids have a pacifier either. Then I shoved them into my daughter’s mouth begging them to stop her crying. She never did like them! She was just a very fussy baby!

    My son was the dream infant. I remember asking my mother what she thought was wrong with him because he NEVER cried. She laughed and told me to count my blessings!! He was a thumbsucker! Sleeping all night at day two. Who needs milk when you have lovely little fingers to knaw?

    I had all kinds of preconcieved notions of what kind of mother I’d be. I stopped verbalizing them long ago because I realized they just made me look really dumb! (And my kids were much more likely to do something I’ve told everyone “My kid will never do….”)

    So, yeah. I understand! Great post!

  • Great post, Gretchen. I too had a stack of “unwelcome gifts from baby showers” that I swore I’d never use. When I had a night with Peter similar to the one you described here, I reached for the paci (that’s what we call it — so uninventive!). But he refused it and kept spitting it out. Eventually he found his thumb and all was right with the world.

    With Jacob, that boy needed to suck more than any kid I’ve ever seen! How happy we were when he

  • Hey, what happened?!? Anyway, at 6 months old, Jacob decided the paci had served his purpose and they’ve all disappeared into drawers, trash cans, and, no doubt other hidden places that we’ll discover in a few years’ time.

  • Lovely post. It brings back such memories of my own kids’ pacifier experiences. And the many things I’ve allowed that I said I never would.

  • I don’t think it is lazy parenting or caving either. Sometimes we get such grandiose ideas of what is right. Then we become wiser and do what is best.

  • One of your best. Succinct and applicable to so many areas of motherhood.

  • Bravo for this post. I was just feeling guilty she had pizza for lunch.

  • Well done! Thank you! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Well done!

  • I love it! Great post. I tried to give my son a dummy but he didn’t want it. Funny really as he has taken well to everything else I have offered him over the past 16 months.

  • Ha! Now that is what I call BLING for babies!

    My oldest son was a crier for 4 months–until he found his thumb. People said we shouldn’t let it become a habit but my hubby and I were so happy that he was content that we just let it go. We were relieved!

    It is funny how much our ideas change when we actually have a child! So much of our “wisdom” goes out the window!

    BTW–we called the pacifier a “binky”.

  • Before becoming a mom I was given all sorts of advice: don’t get an epidural (I did), don’t let her use a pacifier (we did), don’t co-sleep (still have occasional nights of that, TWO years later!). You capture so well the fact that we do what works for us, and realize that there are some things that aren’t worth being dogmatic about.

    (Just getting back in the commenting game now that I’m feeling better!)

  • There really isn’t anything bad with pacifiers. I’m a med student and we’ve been taught to encourage parents to use them. They’ve actually been shown to help prevent SIDS. Something about the sucking helping the baby breath better. I’m not yet a mother, but I suspect they will definitely come in handy when the time comes! And I don’t think I”ll hesitate. Great post.

  • I think that white gold soother will be bit heavy lol Yes, we all think that our kids will be different, that we will be different parents…and then when you become a parent you learn just how much your child influences your parenting. Jason never wanted a dummy (soother) Zander on the other will probably end up going to school with his (ok not really *I hope* but he loves his)

  • Christine

    Wow-isn’t is amazing how much we think we know before the kids come along?! I have learned to never say never.—in our house it has always been a “fuver” and two out of three kids used them (no, not the same ones-yuk) the middle child only used them to see how far he could spit them from his crib. Amazingly all three kids have normal haircuts, good grades, are well mannered and even get along with us…I give full credit to the “fuver’s” of the family.

  • I can’t stop giggling about the mullet…..

    Great post Gretchen.

  • edj

    Our twins used “dummies.” (My mum is British and that’s the term there) The twins took them for a while, although Ilsa quit quickly and Abel took to his thumb. Once, when the twins were about 4 months old, they were both lying on a blanket at the beach. I glanced over and noticed that Abel had lost his dummy while Ilsa was peacefully sucking on hers. Next instant, Ilsa was crying–Abel had reached over and taken hers! Cracked me up. They start early, don’t they?

  • Julana

    I know what you mean, about changing your perspective. Children tilt your view of the world–let alone child raising. 🙂

  • Sight reading. You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Only I would use…say…Subway rather than McDs. Right, right, right…must keep up appearances now, musn’t we? 😉 (Says she, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

    Surfing through from…oh, bother…I can’t remember where from, actually, but I’m bookmarking you and I’ll be back.

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