Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Pacify or Not to Pacify?

That's been the question around these parts. Matt and I have been trying to adhere to a Montessorian parenting philosophy, which advises against the use of lots of external props like pacifiers, swings, bouncy chairs, etc.

But we've been struggling because the only way to soothe him to sleep right now is to walk him around in the Moby or the Ergo carriers (don't get me wrong--I'm thankful that we at least have one reliable method--for the moment!). But it has been difficult because I'm still bleeding a lot, and I'm supposed to take it easy on the walking.

It's also difficult if Henry needs to be soothed back to sleep in the middle of the night. Most of the time he will fall asleep while breast feeding, but occasionally he doesn't. If he's already been eating for an hour, then I don't like to let him keep suckling, just to soothe him to sleep. My nipples are way too sensitive for that! That means we have to get out of bed, walk him around in a carrier, get him to fall asleep, and then pray to the gods that we can successfully transfer him to the bed without awakening him. If he awakens, we have to start the whole carrier soothing process again.

So a pacifier seemed like a good transitional kind of prop, while Henry works to develop some self-soothing skills. I've read a lot of arguments against pacifiers, but I feel like most of them don't apply to the way we intend to use it.

First, we waited four weeks, which means that Henry has learned how to breast feed successfully. Secondly, we will try to never use it when he's actually hungry. Third, we will plan to transition him off the pacifier as soon as it seems developmentally appropriate. Fourth, we will try not to use it to "shut him up;" we will try to just use it strategically when he needs more support falling asleep.

I start going to a Montessori parenting class next week, so perhaps I'll find the teacher's anti-pacifier arguments compelling.

We'll see!

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C├ęcy said...

I'm not a mom, but I think a happy baby comes from happy parents. It sounds like the soothing can take a toll on your energy, so I'd go for the pacifier when you feel it's appropriate.
You need to be able to rest and recover to be here for your son when he needs you.

Sandra said...

I agree with Cecy. I'm sure i's a good way to ease the transition until he self-soothes. Just make sure he knows how to sleep without it though, otherwise he'll be crying every time it falls out of his mouth and you'll be waking up even more than before!
That happened with my daughter. At 9 months, we couldn't take it anymore (waking every hour or so) and had to "train" her to fall asleep without the pacifier. It took 2 weeks of hell but now she sleeps through the night.
Anyway, you're doing amazingly as a new mother. Best of luck.

Carrie said...

USE. THE. PACIFIER. At this age babies have an innate NEED to suck. You must have read that in one of your books. Have you even tried the pacifier yet? Just try it. Heck, he might not even like it (I know several babies like that), and you'll have crossed an option off the list. If Henry is still "eating" after an hour, it seems likely he's letting you know he needs to suck and that it soothes him...

It is not difficult to limit when the baby has the pacifier--to naps and night only, for example (or just night). I agree with not using it in the ways you specified (to "shut up", etc.). In fact, he can begin to successfully use it as a sleep cue--"Oh, here is the pacifier, Mom will put me down on my bed, and I will go to sleep."

I did not have as significant an issue as Sandra had. Until about 9 months old we got up once per night or not at all to give our son his pacifier. It took 30 seconds. After that, we wised up and put three of them in the crib so he could usually find one on his own if he decided he wanted it. I had a rule that at one year the pacifier would be gone altogether because I cannot stand seeing children old enough to walk with a pacifier hanging out of their mouths. At that point, they need to work on speech, have no need to suck, and have turned the pacifier into a comfort object. A blankie or lovey seems far more appropriate to me around that age (although I'm guessing Montessori doesn't allow kids to have comfort objects, which I personally find ridiculous). Even adults have comfort objects--a cup of tea, that warm blanket on the couch, etc.

Please keep in mind that you have needs, too. Your night-time routine sounds completely exhausting for the adults, and perhaps unnecessary if the easy and COMMON solution of a pacifier can help. The Montessori philosophy can't be "right" about everything. If it were, there wouldn't be other philosophies that work for countless people. My kid is awesome at 2, and he had a pacifier...

amber said...

i am a former montessori teacher with a 6 week old, and we avoided the paci for 5 weeks. we decided to use it because there would be times when crosby wouldnt be hungry, wouldnt be happy being held, and wouldnt want to lay down... and he wouldnt be crying, just really fussy. We tried the paci and it was the solution. he only uses it at night, and he only sucks for a few minutes before he has calmed himself and then spits it out. we never use it when he is hungry, and we never just give it to him and walk away to "shut him up". He doesnt ever seem to use it during the day....

ps. your struggle with the carrier and the napping only when in the carrier is something we went through during the first 5 weeks. i just decided to have no expectations for my time and i stopped having a running to do list. i would strap him in and walk around downtown, stopping at benches to relax and eat my lunch or have some coffee. i went to the library and walked around, sitting and looking at books i had gathered. around 5 weeks, i was able to start putting him down to nap alone. however, i didnt try to put him down when he was already asleep, i would put him down while he was still awake but drowsy. if he started crying, i picked him back up. for every 5 times i tried it, 3 of those times he would actually fall asleep alone. now he falls asleep alone every time.
henry will get there too!

Sophia said...

Sarah, you seem to always try to make things more difficult for yourself. Your innate need to over-analyze everything must be absolutely exhausting. Does it bring you joy to complicate your life? If the paci soothes your child and makes your life and his life enjoyable then why not use it? If he loves a chair and it brings him comfort, why not use a chair? So far you're making the montessori method sound absolutely miserable for everyone involved. You're not teaching the child anything by letting him cry it out at 4 weeks old. He's not learning to soothe himself if you're not giving him to tools he needs to actually do so. Take a deep breath, girl, step back and start thinking of ways you can simplify and bring more joy to your life.

Kelsey said...

No parenting experience here but it does sound like this might be a case of "where the philosophy hits the road" you have to change course a bit. If Henry is soothed by a pacifier and that lets him get more sleep - and you and Matt more sleep! I don't see how anyone could argue that it was a bad thing.

Rachel said...

We used a pacifier until about 5 months. Then we moved, lost track of them and never used them again. I do sort of wince when I see a three year old sucking on a pacifier. And then I feel bad because I really shouldn't be judgmental.

Sarah said...

Hi Sara,

I would suggest trying everything out, you never know what might work for you and your baby and when you find what does it will be right for you.

And in response to a comment above, I would like to say that it seems to me that Sara is simply thinking out loud, and perhaps criticizing an exhausted new mother isn't the most gentle or thoughtful way to offer advice?

Good luck!

Steph said...

I have always been extremely anti-pacifier.

Then I had a baby.

And he wanted to nurse for an hour. Then do it again 30 minutes later.

At 3 days old I sent my husband to the store to get a pacifier. Then we all lived happily ever after:)

Seriously though, lifesaver. Babies NEED to suck. Some more than others. It sounds like Henry has a strong sucking instinct. If you're happy being his paci for hours at a time, then by all means go for it... otherwise just give in. I breastfed exclusively until we introduced solids at 8 months, and now at 11 months breastfeeding is still going strong. I'm not a montessori teacher or anything, but we do follow a lot of the principals. We also attachment parent. To me montessori is all about following the child's cues. In the grand scheme of raising a child, its not really that big of a deal if you use a pacifier. Also if you are having to get up in the middle of the night and walk and bounce him around when a paci might help him fall right to sleep, that seems silly.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sara,

I really appreciate your thoughtful and honest reflections. I can almost "see" you working things out over the blog...

I definitely support the use of pacifiers in the ways that you describe. Enjoy Henry and take care!

Anonymous said...

Just want to chime in here - I think it's great that you've identified a "method" that works for your belief system, but I think the biggest part of being a parent is realizing that you are raising a human. And like all humans he is not like any other person on earth. He can't follow one single system to a T. Just remember that you and Matt are good people and that there is nothing you will do to mess up your child. All he needs is for you to respond to his needs. If that means giving him a pacifier or putting him in a swing then so be it. If he needs to be moving to feel safe then put him in a vibrating chair and take comfort in knowing that you are creating the parenting method that works best for YOUR child, for the entirely unique human being that you created. You are good people, you will raise a good kid if you use a swing, seat, pacifier, blanket, whatever, or not. Just try out the resources that are available to you and give yourself some space in your mind and heart to enjoy the calmer periods it creates.

Also, side note, have you asked your midwife if it's ok that you're still bleeding? I know the days and nights must just rung right together, but from the outside a month sounds a little long.

Anonymous said...

The Montessori Method is just that: a method, a philosophy, a theory. I understand wanting to cling to some ordered way of being when raising Henry and I respect that. However, much of the Montessori mantra is rigid and highly specific. It seems to celebrate individual freedom while restricting the tools, materials, and experiences that MAY enhance each unique child's experience. It is in its essence, a doctrine, and I think following it rigidly will only deny your child some tools that he may find pleasing, educational, and simply interesting. I think all methods should be used to get a little bit here, and little bit there. Your blog readers can give you some great ideas that your books can't, and vice versa. I know you are thinking through the different options and that is great! I also feel this need to follow the Montessori method to a "t," lest you "screw up your kid" is contrary to common sense. A pacifier or blanket or chair will not damage your child--at worst it might cause stress to your family for a while, until you change the pattern. I know some children who suck their thumb into their teens--they didn't have a pacifier! I know others who still keep their baby blanket for comfort in their 20s--so what?! Society tells us this blanket "obsession" is wrong, but if it brings comfort to someone, then by all means, bring out your blanket to use when you feel down. My point is, by adhering to ANY one philosophy, you are just limiting yourself in other ways. And I agree with the comment about making life harder for yourself. And I really really don't mean to be harsh when I say, that I think a lot of this stress is very academic and (gulp) a bit elitist. The Montessori method has a whole lot of rules for a philosophy that is supposed to encourage creativity and exploration. Exploration is OK "as long as it is done this way" can be contradictory sometimes. And I think you have to try what YOU think is right. If Henry is reacting a certain way and needs certain things, are you going to look him in the eye and instinctively try to give him what you think might help--or are you going to run to your Montessori Guide and respond to the "generic" child? Don't lose touch with what is happening in real time--I have seen a lot of mothers feel regretful when they do this. Just like you ended up delivering in a hospital after all your painstaking planning, (and it all turned out fine!), you can't overthink every little thing. You are going to exhaust yourself by the time Henry is 5 months. Sometimes survival, with some good common sense, is the best philosophy. I do enjoy these posts, though, because they bring a lot of discussion and perspectives which I feel is wonderful. And I don't think Sophia's comment above was meant to hurt Sara, but just give her honest advice. Ok, Sara, good luck!!! Hope you get to relax a bit and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Alissa said...

Another giant YES to the pacifier. Babies need/want to suck, it's one of the few coping skills they have at this age.

My daughter spent her first week in the NICU, where basically all babies get pacifiers (the Soothies you pictured actually). It's interesting looking back on it, because I had no intentions of giving her a pacifier that early (given what they say about breastfeeding, etc), but clearly we had other things to worry about at that point! Anyway, the whole experience of that NICU week put a lot of things in perspective - ie, doing what you can so you and your baby are as healthy and happy as possible. We kept any pacifier use to in her crib/bassinet/etc for naps and bedtime - and she was very clear about when she didn't want it. It also had no impact on our breasfeeding relationship - we nursed to a year (she's 15 months now), even given the whole crazy first week.

Anyway, long way of saying that I think that pacifiers can be really helpful to both baby and parents, and also that giving a kid a pacifier doesn't have to be "harmful" or mean s/he'll go to kindergarden with it!

Hang it there, and good luck!

Shani said...

I'm currently pregnant with #4, we used a pacifier with the last 3 and plan to again with this one. Its a great tool, babies love to suck, but we always broke them of the pacifier between 6-9 months.
Also, instead of walking with Henry, have you tried to use an exercise ball, you can rock or bounce and its a lot less wear and tear on the floor.

Emily said...

If he is able to self sooth with a pacifier you are teaching him an important skill and independence. Do you swaddle him? That can also be very helpful and it is probably why he likes the carrier so much. Due to the startle reflex, it helps babies to organize themselves when they are swaddled and they are much more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep. Pacifiers also help reduce the risk of SIDS by keeping the infants somewhat alert. I don't think there is really a disadvantage.... Hope he likes them and they help!!

P.S. I am a NICU nurse and just went to an extensive feeding class. The pacifier you have pictured, the soothie is one of the best and requires more engaged sucking behaviore. They also cannot talk/smile with it so they are less likely to get attached to it like some of the others that are more flat.

Anonymous said...

"The Method arose in the process of her experimental observation of young children given freedom in an environment, leading her to believe by 1907 that she had discovered "the child's true normal nature."
He is still a baby and doesn't have a clue what his true normal nature is yet. Everything I've read about The Montessori Method is that it was based on kids 2 and up.
Let him be a baby.
There is time enough for you to mold him with TMM.
A paci won't ruin him for life but it might earn you some much needed stress relief. Just be sure to wean him off it by 6 months.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I don't think my comment posted. Anyway, this is a really interesting debate. I think you need to do some soul searching as a couple to determine why you're so hung-up on adhering to a method instead of trusting your instincts and exploring what's available to you to see what works best for this baby. 'Cause it's not going to be the same for the next one.

Were you and Matt raised with the M. method? Do you think you're messed up, or perfect depending on your answer? I agree with the previous poster that you just need to let him be a baby!

I second the swaddling suggestion.

In 1907 women couldn't vote. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Whatever works, until whatever doesn't. Whether it be co-sleeping, breast feeding, music, rocking, pacifier - do what works for your babe and your family until it stops working.

Anonymous said...

If only my children would have used pacifiers! I felt like you did and for some reason got it in my head that sucking a pacifier was horrible. Most new parent quickly change their mind on that and I TRIED to get my kids to use them. Unfortunately they were a no go.

The miracle product for my first child was the swing. Stupidly, I felt like I couldn't leave my baby in the swing very long, but looking back I realize that he never cried in there, so he must have been happy. I asked my pediatrician how long I could leave my son in the swing and he said as long as YOU need him to be there.

My second son wasn't a real fan of the swing, but I did put him in there at night sometimes and I could sleep for hours. I was so worried he would end up a mess, but he is a wonderful little sleeper now.

I've randomly found your blog and I think back to my lonely, scared first days as a new mom. I think that this is a wonderful way to share the real worries and fears that we all have as new parents. Sometimes I feel that as teachers, we see so many children who have been poorly parented, that we overanalyze our own decisions.

fuzzy said...

You are raising a baby, not a Montessori book. Do what works....the Montessori method is a neat theory but every baby theory bonks on meeting a real infant.

lindel said...

We used a pacifier very strategically for the reason you outlined. The transferring from boob/arms to bed was always filled with trepidation. We would slip a pacifier in his mouth while coming off the breast, lay him in bed, he would suck away for a few moments and when I thought he was asleep (i.e. hadn't noticed the transition to bed) I would slide it out again. 30 seconds tops of strategic pacifier use. He was none the wiser!

Word said...

I just want to second everyone above that tells you to trust your instincts and do what works for you and your family. I'm just curious how open you are to everyone's suggestions when you mention at the end that you're going to a Montessori parenting class and when your next post is about Montessori mobiles? I just want to reiterate that I think it's okay for you to go easy on yourself if you don't follow every Montessori infant-rearing recommendation. New moms are inundated with advice and recommendations, but, you know, I'm sure from what I've read on your blog, that you and Matt are caring, thoughtful parents, and that's the most important thing!

stef said...

Hi all,
I think you need to remember that is a new mother writing who is looking for advice. She's probably tired and adjusting to life as a mum. There are ways of offering advice without being judgemental and in some cases quite hostile. Sara needs lots of love and support from us, her cyber community.

Just remember if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place.

Sara, I know from reading your blog that the Montessori philosophy is something that is really important to you. I admire that you've researched and thought about your role as a mother, henry is lucky to have you as a mother.

My only piece advice on parenting is to remember from the airplane safety videos where they parents to put on their oxygen masks first so that they can look after their kiddies. I hope things work out.

Hula Girl said...

Read the happiest baby on the block! I totally agree with the fourh trimester and the important needs of babies under the age of 3 months. It really helped us (swaddle, ocean white noise and a pacifier) the fourth trimester is a pretty good theory

Schmei said...

Henry sounds very similar to my niece, and my sister had similar concerns. In the end, they decided to use a pacifier, which they started using around 6 weeks.

My niece is 1 now, and she never uses a pacifier any more. It was a temporary and useful tool.

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