I’ve lost rounds one, two, and three with the pacifier.
First, we intended to get rid of the pacifier by six months. (This is when some experts advise it, since the risk of ear infections with pacifier use begins to increase.) Well, six months came and went, and my son was still a terrible sleeper; the idea of going through a painful process to get rid of the one thing that reliably helped him to sleep on his own seemed preposterous. Then we decided to toss my son’s beloved binkie at one year. Well, other sources said 18 months was another perfectly acceptable deadline, since at 18 months, toddlers start an emotionally tumultuous developmental period that doesn’t end for several months. My son is now almost 21 months old, and guess what? Yes, he’s still a pacifier junkie.
And what about the study released this fall that concluded that pacifiers may have a harmful effect on infant boys’ emotional development? This study said that pacifiers interfere with an infant’s ability to copy facial expressions and later their emotional perspective-taking skills. These deficits continued all the way into childhood and even college! Helpful relatives pointed out this study to me in the newspaper, as my son would chant, “Binky! Binky! Where’s Binky?” at family dinners.
So how do I justify this continued pacifier use, as someone whose professional life has been firmly anchored in using data-driven thinking to make decisions about children and their educational development? It’s simple; I have many rationalizations. First, my son contracted repeated rounds of infections: hand, foot, and mouth, colds, conjunctivitis. Taking away the pacifier when he was sick and miserable seemed cruel. Earlier this fall, he started preschool and had a very difficult transition, to say the least. (Weeks of phone calls from the preschool to tell me that he had cried for hours straight, and I’d arrive to pick him up at school to find him sitting in a corner, clutching his stuffed lamb and sobbing, “Mommy. Mommy” through his pacifier.)
Now I’ve just made peace with the pacifier. I have no clear plans to take it away. I’ve surrendered to the power of the binky, and I know that my son has a greater statistical risk of ear infections, dental cavities, and on and on.
Have you ever made allowance for a child’s bad habit, even when you know that you should do something about it?