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By Dr. Tina Lepage Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Parenting Page: Pacifier Wars

By Dr. Tina Lepage Posted January 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings.

I want to start off by saying that I have no stance on whether a child “should” or “should not” have a pacifier. But it does seem to be something all parents have to make a decision about. I thought a pacifier seemed better than not, in that children without them may suck their thumbs, which would be harder to stop when you wanted that form of comfort to end, since the thumb is attached and the pacifier you could take away. So it seemed like a more logical choice.

I tried to give Page a pacifier as an infant and she spit it out, so I assumed she didn’t want one. Shopping with a friend with grown children one day, I learned I was wrong. Apparently I just didn’t know how to get her to suck on it. The first time, you have to hold it long enough for them to get a grip on it or they inadvertently spit it out. This reminded me of the nursing coaches at UNC who came in, held Page’s chin down to make her mouth very wide open, and rather forcefully attached her to my breast. She and I had not been doing so well on our own without that direction. Makes me wonder how the human race survived. I guess there always has been the coaching and advice of those who went before us for us naive new mothers who are bumbling along.

So there we were, with Page now a pacifier baby, which I have to say was good because in lieu of the pacifier she had never wanted to stop breastfeeding sessions (me being the human pacifier), which had been getting overwhelming. All was well with the world, until we had to wean her off the pacifier. My husband’s approach to this was like much of his parenting, which is that it will just magically happen as a normal course of life without intervention by us. If you’ve read earlier columns you’ll recall he wasn’t concerned about potty training since he’d never seen an adult in diapers. Similarly, he didn’t work with anyone who had a pacifier so he thought it would just end someday. However, I didn’t want her to have her pacifier as long as he had his; he recalls as a child being old enough to know that kids didn’t use them anymore (probably 5 or 6), and hiding it when his friends came over. I thought we could at least spare Page that social awkwardness.

But let’s face it: that pacifier wasn’t just for Page, it was for us too. It calmed her and soothed her and kept her quiet at times that were really helpful. Holding it back resulted in her fussing and demanding she have her paci. It seemed certain that this whole weaning thing was going be a literal headache for me. I admit it: I had come to love the pacifier. One of the best inventions of humankind, really. The pacifier was my friend.

Nonetheless, I did my duty and planned slyly to wean her when away from Peter, and with a plan I thought was foolproof. Page and I were going to Maine to visit family, and so once in Maine, when she asked for her pacifier, I told her there were no pacifiers in Maine. This came as quite a shock to her three-and-a-half-year-old brain. “What?!” she complained! She couldn’t believe it. But I assured her there were none in Maine and they weren’t allowed there either. I had created a scenario hard for her to argue against, whereas at home she just cried and pitched a fit when I tried to say no. I could see her little brain trying to grasp this, and frankly to look for holes in my story and plan her counter-attack. But she accepted it. Later as we went to bed was the real test. She started to lightly cry and asked for her pacifier, which I reminded her there were none of in Maine. We were sleeping together while there, which I think helped soothe her a lot. She tossed and turned more than usual, but went to sleep. And that was it. She never asked for her pacifier again, not there or a week later when we got back to NC. If only all parenting tasks were that easy! My plan worked seamlessly! Bam!

And while I rocked the pacifier weaning, it is only in retrospect that I am able to fully enjoy that victory. At the time, I was too anxious worrying about what meltdown might come that I was supposed to handle on my own, pacifier-less – and, truth be told, I kept hidden pacifiers in my purse and the car just in case some moment made ME regress and reintroduce the pacifier. Thankfully, that never happened. My weaning was complete.

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