Lederman: Pacifiers pose problemWritten by Leah Lederman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To binky or not to binky, that is the question. Or perhaps some of you are more familiar with the other Shakespearean allusion: “Do you suck your thumb at us, sir? No sir, I do not suck my thumb at you, sir, but I do suck my thumb, sir!” Either way you look at it, many of us have children who are stuck on thumbs or stuck on pacifiers and, for as many kids out there sucking thumbs, pinkies, fingers, bobos, binkies and nuks, there are just as many relatives and strangers clicking their tongues and shaking their heads. Beware the pacifier! Beware the thumb! Nipple confusion! Loss of appetite! You will pay thousands in orthodontist’s bills! Your child will be ridiculed in school! Germs abound!
And let’s not even get into what the psychoanalysts have to say about sucking thumbs and pacifiers.
Babies suck. It’s what they do, even in the womb. Based on this, I’d say it’s a perfectly natural behavior, and one that should not be condemned. Sometimes we ought to believe that our babies know what they need. Certainly they know better than well-meaning relatives and strangers, whose fears and aversions to infantile oral fixations are typically borne from old wives’ tales and other superstitions (even those grounded, at some point, in medical opinion).
This is as much a defense of the pacifier and the thumb as it is a comparison between the two. How are they different? Is one better than the other? Having weighed the two, I admit I’ve not reached a discernible conclusion. I suppose that whichever option your child has chosen is the best one. As usual with children, their habits and methods are as unique as they are.
The thumb has the notable advantage of being attached, though this can make the habit a harder one to break. You can’t really take a kid’s thumbs from him — and taping a kid’s thumbs to his hands is (apparently) inhumane. The binky/bobo/nuk/insert your own nickname here/pacifier is a “controlled” substance, so to speak, which can be useful in weaning the child. However, they are easy to lose. Not only are they not necessarily a cheap purchase, the lost-binky-induced screaming at 2 in the morning costs an unknown price against your soul. The thumb comes free with the kid.
While thumb-sucking may potentially complicate hands-on activities, you might notice that your child becomes adept at completing tasks one-handed. I was a thumb-sucker myself, and I am an ace when it comes to picking objects off of the floor with my toes. This skill, perhaps ironically, became most useful after having a baby.
My son had some difficulty when it came to selecting his oral fixation. There were a few nights, early on, of solid four-hour blocks of sleep when he first discovered his thumb. He must have sensed that that made it too easy on Mom and Dad, though, because the luxury was short-lived. It was several months later when he finally succumbed to the pacifier. And guess what? The volume level at my house plummetted. The fussing stopped. He was soothed. You might even say he was … pacified. Moreover, it made a handy barrier against the spoonfuls of dirt he wanted to put in his mouth.
On the other — er, thumb … too much of a good thing is just that — too much. Prolonged sucking, be it thumb or pacifier, can land you some decent bills from the dentist’s office. That’s generally when the habit continues into kindergarten. So I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. With my son. He and I (though mostly I) will make the decision together when it’s time to say goodbye to the pacifier. Until then, I am happy to ignore uninvited commentary regarding the binky. My son’s comfort is more important than anyone else’s standards or superstitions.
Leah Lederman lives in Toledo with her husband, their 18-month-old son and a boxer puppy. She has 11 nieces and nephews.