Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You are not a pacifier!

Photo by Itsmybinky

I never used a pacifier with my son. I was one of those moms who was totally against using it from day one. From all the books I had read and through speaking with the Lactation Consultant at the hospital, it seemed detrimental to breastfeeding to introduce a pacifier (or any artificial nipple) before 4-6 weeks. By that time, my son and I had an established breastfeeding relationship and to give him a pacifier seemed counterintuitive. When he needed to eat, he had me. When he needed comforting, I was there. I felt, and still feel, that a pacifier would have hindered my ability to interpret and respond to my son's needs effectively. Besides, pacifiers cause a host of problems. Early introduction of pacifiers has been linked to shorter duration of breastfeeding. Pacifiers can affect teeth alignment. A new study has shown that pacifiers (along with bottles and finger sucking) cause speech problems. There also appears to be a link between pacifier use and frequency of ear infections.

So why do so many people give their baby a pacifier? I know that some babies do need pacifiers, like preemies and those in the NICU. But healthy full-term babies? Why is it that when a baby needs to be comforted, instead of bringing him to our breast, we reach for a piece of plastic? Are they just a part of our culture and deemed a necessity, like cribs and strollers (which many moms eschew as well)? I think that plays a role in it, but I also think many women fear "being used as a pacifier" by their babies. We are told again and again by friends and family not to nurse on demand because you "don't want the baby to use you as a pacifier!" But the thing is you are not a pacifier.

Whenever I hear a mom being admonished for nursing her baby on cue, allowing her baby to fall asleep at the breast, or letting a baby comfort nurse, I am brought back to this wonderful quote by Paula Yount.
"You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort.... but you are not a pacifier!"

That statement really sums it up for me. I think it's important to remember that you can never nurse too often, although you can nurse too little and cause problems. There is no shame in responding to your baby's needs. In fact, I think it's what gave me such confidence as a new, first-time mom, so much so that people would often comment on how self-assured I seemed.

What do you think? Am I unfairly villifying the pacifier? Are they a useful tool or just another accessory pushed on us as a necessary part of modern parenting that hurts more than it helps?

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