Friday night, fatigued and sore from days of marathon nursing, I offered Coraline a pacifier. She grabbed the little handle, pulled it out of her mouth for a quick examination, and then pushed it back in, sucking loudly as she flapped her arms in delight. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. But twenty minutes later, as I thumbed through Vanity Fair and she drifted peacefully off to sleep beside me, guilt started to creep in as a small part of me conceded defeat — the pacifier had won.
My dislike of pacifiers — like my preference for baby-wearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, handmade toys, and attachment parenting — was born of tireless reading and research and an apparent proclivity towards “natural” parenting choices. Individuals have differing tastes when it comes to food, clothing, partners, music, and so on — so it would follow that different parenting styles speak to different people. To each their own! Pacifiers are de rigueur for many, many parents. It’s a little piece of BPA-free silicone — not a cigarette. So why have I been wracked with guilt and insecurity all weekend as my daughter sucks happily away?
My personal belief was that, since Coraline has 24/7 access to me, her natural need to suck could (and should) be met by me (or more specifically, my breasts). This impression was reinforced by Dr. Sears, countless Google searches for “pacifiers,” and the personal experiences of like-minded, crunchy mommy types. But here’s what I’m thinking: Am I on information overload? Is it possible that the same limitless access to information and opinion that allows me to make informed decisions for my family is the same thing prohibiting me from trusting my own intuition? This is not to say that I have all the answers, or that women are supposed to be perfect mothers by nature of their very woman- ness, but the nurturing instinct that kicks in when your baby pops out is a pretty powerful reference. And if that’s not working, baby will certainly let you know when it’s not getting what it needs. This little piece of silicone could do for my baby what I, in that moment, could not do — no harm, no foul — and yet here I am, looking over my shoulder like I’m robbing a bank. Silly.
I read somewhere that when making choices for your baby you should imagine in your mind two baskets — one labeled “Best for Me,” the other “Best for Baby” — and think of where that choice would go. I think that when something goes in both baskets (for example, my little friend, the pacifier), it can inspire all sorts of guilty feelings, because our selfless mother ego wants a clear slam dunk in the Best for Baby pile every time. But who says that there’s not a middle ground?
I think sometimes the best thing for everyone involved is to look at the unique little person in front of you and just answer two simple questions: What do they need? And then, what can I do? Close the baby books, get off MotheringDotCom, don’t call your best friend, and just feel it out. There’s no pair out there just like you two, and you know what they say: “Mother knows best” (that means you, by the way).
So in taking my own advice, I’m giving myself a break, literally and figuratively. Thank you, Mr. Pacifier. And, with a trip to Boston this coming weekend and Christmas next week, I won’t be back until the 28th, so Happy Holidays Mamas!
Just for fun: What do you call your baby’s pacifier? Check out BabyCenter.com’s 139 Pet Names for the infamous “sucky thing.”