Yes, I’ve a love-hate relationship with the paci, short for pacifier, also affectionately known as binky. I’m sure many parents share the same sentiments. I know that not all babies take to it. But there’re many who do, and it has been a sleep saver for parents.
We didn’t buy a paci for baby Alex initially, because we learned at the childbirth education course that it was not advisable since it would affect speech development. But my mom bought one for us, a Nuk brand, which is supposedly orthodontic-friendly, and told us we could have one on stand-by so we could use it to sooth him. She told me that my 2 nieces had the paci but ditched them when they turned 7 or 8 months old.
Alex didn’t take to the paci immediately. He preferred nursing to sleep instead. But I was trying to discourage him because I was expressing milk a number of times a day, and also suffering from sleep deprivation. So I kept trying the paci on him during nap and bed time, and eventually he accepted it. Now, it becomes essential to sooth him to sleep. It is not just useful in that sense, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also encourages its use because it helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When a baby is using the paci, he or she doesn’t go into deep sleep which is when SIDS happens. The risk of SIDS decreases after 6 months of age. However long term usage of the paci causes problem to speech development, so AAP and Mayo clinic recommend ditching the paci by 2 years old.
So where does the hate come in, you want to know. Those who have babies who use paci will know that in the middle of the night, as baby goes into deep sleep, his or her lips will loosen and the paci drops out. You may think, ‘good, baby is sleeping soundly.’ Before very long, you hear the baby crying. Where the hell is the paci that was in my mouth? Yep, you have to go pick up the paci and reinsert into baby’s mouth. This doesn’t just happen once in the middle of the night. It happens to Alex a few times, and it happens to other babies numerous times. It’s seriously a pain in the ass to have to get up, while groggy with sleep, to put back the paci. Interrupted sleep is a bitch! And unfortunately baby hasn’t learned how to grope around for the paci, pick it up and put into mouth. If you have a baby who can do that, all the power to you. Alex is able to remove the paci with his fingers, but not put it back. Now that he is able to turn on his sides, the paci is also falling out of the cot when it leaves his mouth. I have to place 2 paci on his cot so that I can quickly replace it when one gets dirty. In fact I bought 5 paci for him.
The blog, Troublesome Tots, has a post on How and why to use and lose the paci. The author recommends the use of the paci as one of the tools to help newborns to sleep. When it comes to losing it, she thinks that the easiest time to do it is actually before baby turns 4 months old as the baby will have no memory of it. At 4 months or older, baby will have developed attachment to the paci, and realize it is missing during weaning. Still, to balance against the risk of SIDS, she suggests discussing with the pediatrician on the best time to wean it off.
There are two proposed weaning methods according to the author of Troublesome Tots: the short-term pain Ferber approach or the slow and steady pull-it-out method. Dr Richard Ferber is the Director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders at the children’s hospital in Boston. He is famous for his Cry-It-Out (CIO) sleep training and has singlehandedly created new vocabulary based on his technique, Ferberization.
His recommendation on paci weaning is also CIO or in lay man term, go cold turkey. Basically he tells parents to just remove it and after a couple of nights, the baby will forget all about it. Now any addict will tell you going cold turkey is freaking painful! So naturally baby will cry like a banshee, hence the CIO. The author suggests the slow and steady method, which is when baby is half asleep, the parent pull out the paci. If the baby cries, sooth the baby. But if crying persists, replace the paci and try again later, which means it will take hours and weeks before it finally works. She also advises having a bedtime routine, getting the baby to adopt a lovey, and using other soothing tools like sleeping in a swing and white noise to help baby to sleep without the paci.
I read the comments from parents and found a couple who had used the cold turkey method and it worked, though it required superhuman determination not to give in to the crying. So early last week, I decided to go for it since this, to me, is short-term pain and long-term gain. Alex has a bedtime routine, which is basically early evening feed, bath (though sometimes the feed happens after his bath if the previous feed is a little late), short rocking session while I tell him that it is bedtime and sing him a lullabye, then put him down with a paci.
So that night I didn’t give it to Alex, and he started crying. I put my hand on his chest to calm him but he still continued crying. After a couple of minutes, my husband marched in, ‘just give him the pacifier, he’s crying!’ At that, he promptly insert a paci into Alex’s mouth which of course stopped the crying immediately. I flipped, and told him if he wanted Alex to have the paci then he could take over the graveyard shift! He backed off then.
I had to try again the next night, and as expected Alex cried when I put him down without the paci. I pat him on the shoulder to sooth him and also place my palm on his chest. Amazingly after 5 minutes, he fell asleep. Hey, this was easier than I thought. Even my husband was surprised that it didn’t take long for Alex to settle down. That night, Alex only woke up once in the early morning, probably because he was a little hungry. I have him the paci since it wasn’t time for his scheduled feed. The next night, Alex cried a little longer, about 10 minutes before settling down. Still that was super fast compared to those who had to endure the baby crying for a couple of hours.
So did I succeed in weaning Alex off the paci? Nope. Alex had his 4th month vaccination mid last week, and poor boy was really feeling out of sort, so we gave him the paci to sooth him. I thought of resuming the weaning when he is back to his usual self, but decided to do it in November when he turns 5 months old. A couple of days ago, we took Alex to see Dr OK (aka Anita Menon) for his eczema problem, and I asked her about the paci. She recommended weaning between 6-8 months old. That is in line with the risks of SIDS falling significantly after 6 months. So now Alex gets to enjoy another month of having the paci before he goes for rehab.