The History of the Pacifier

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Before Little Owl was born I was certain I would not use a pacifier

In hindsight I am not sure why I decided that. Perhaps I had some vague notion of a Freudian-esque issue that would develop. I didn't give it much thought, just decided to believe that it was a bad idea.

A pooping, peeing, nursing, sucking machine...

However, two months into being a mother I realized that perhaps I might need to rethink my position. I loved, cared for and doted on my daughter. She could not be lacking in comfort. (And if she was three months and mostly not wearing diapers, I could't be that out of touch with her.) 

She would give me, what I thought were cues of hunger, only to spit up all the milk she than drank. When I finally figured out that what she needed was something to SUCK that didn't overfill her little tummy, I decided to let her suck my fingers. And suck. And suck. I would switch to a different finger. She would suck and suck and suck. In order to fall asleep she needed to suck. My fingers were constantly in her mouth. 

Besides the fact that my hand would always twist into uncomfortable (which I didn't really mind) positions to put her to sleep, my fingers were raw. People suggested I try a pacifier. While it may not have seemed like a big deal to some, I was torn up inside. I felt it was somehow wrong. That it would somehow make me less of a loving mother.

Buckling under the "pressure"

Then one day I broke down. Holding my head in shame I bought a pacifier. A rubber pacifier. (At least she wouldn't be sucking plastic, right??). I took it home and sanitized it like the instructions specified. Almost flinching, I gave it to her. 

Let me say that it is no over-exaggeration to say she HATED it. Despised it. Did. Not. Want. It.

Oh the irony. So our dance continued. She continued to suck on my fingers, and I continued to get more and more sore. I had ten prunes for fingers. 

Than, she changed her mind. She took it. I was elated. Then, my feeling of relief (for my fingers) I remembered my pre-birth unspoken vow to never give my child a pacifier. 

I started to self-justify (mostly out of guilt). Where, again, had I gotten the idea that they were bad? The vague idea that they were only invented post-industrialization by mothers who really didn't care about their kids? That they were bad for my baby, bad for her teeth, our bonding, our love, would give her a complex, etc, etc.?

Are pacifiers really that bad?

Rather than take it away (because, after all, it was working and she liked it--a lot) I decided to do some research. 

Take a look at this:

This is a painting done in 1506 by Albrecht Durer. Take a look at what the baby has in his hand. Yup. You guessed. A pacifier. Sure, it's not made from silicone, rubber, or plastic, but it's a pacifier nonetheless. It's called a "rag bag" to be more precise.

The mothers and their inventions...

Prior to the invention of what are now know as "pacifiers" (which didn't make their debut until the 20th century) mothers used to stuff all sorts of things (honey, sugar, fat, alcohol, bones) into rags, tie them off and give them to their infants to suck on. (At least my baby wasn't sucking on brandy!) 

Sometimes (as in the advertisement pictured at the beginning of this post) they were made out of bone or wood. Or, if you were really rich you had one carved out of ivory or silver. (Know the expression "born with a silver spoon in his mouth"? Yup. That's from a pacifier.)

Mothers dear, we've been doing this for a long time. Despite advice from (all male, mind you) doctors, dentists, and psychologists, we have been answering to our babies needs. 

If you have one of those babies who don't need to suck continuously or who find their fingers early, more power to you. For those of us whose babies don't, there are options. And there have been options for a long time.

Curious what pacifier I used? This one.

Did you use a pacifier for your little one? Why or why not?

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  1. Very interesting Jackie! Thanks. I'm not opposed to a pacifier ... after the supposed window of "nipple confusion" is over. Did you find she needed it right from birth, though?

    1. Hey Melanie! Thanks for commenting. Probably should have clarified that. Definitely not. I think it shouldn't be used from birth in most cases. Babies nurse a LOT that first month or so. She did and it all got used up! What clued me into the idea of using a pacifier was the fact that she was nursing a lot but than also started spitting up a lot. She changed from nursing as much as she needed to more than she needed. Make sense? Looking forward to meeting your little man!

  2. What a wonderful post! I love that you are so honest about your feelings of guilt, but you also keep a sense of humor (yes, thank you for not soaking your paci's in brandy, lol). And I had never heard of "rag bags", but I'm not surprised!
    I was lucky enough to have one of those babies who found his own fingers early. We had tried a paci but he always gagged on it. Goes to show that every baby is totally different!

    1. Thanks for checking out my post and letting me know you liked it! I agree that every baby is totally different. I "think" I'm figuring at least some stuff out right now but I am sure that will all go out the window when a second comes along! Glad you had a finger-sucker. :)

  3. I thought I wouldn't use a pacifier either, and then I met my son. How I wish this child would take a pacifier! I've tried giving my now five month old pacifiers since he was three weeks but he's not having it. It's all mommy all the time, unless he's feeling generous, in which case he'll suck his own fingers. Sigh. Hearing your story helps me to hold out hope that one day he'll take a pacifier...or outgrow some of his need to constantly suck.

    1. ! Thinking of you, momma. I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is permanent. Especially not with a baby. <3

  4. We didn't give our son one for 3 months so he wouldn't be confused, but then he LOVED it from 3-6 months. It had to always be with him. Then suddenly one day, at about 6 months, he absolutely refused to use it and hasn't since. Still don't know why but at least we never had to break the habit lol

  5. We've had 2 babies that took the pacifier,and like you mentioned the need to suck was fulfilled. Our paci babies slept through the night unlike our babies that wouldn't take the pacifier.

  6. I gave my lo one at birth (I know, I know) and then changed my mind about it and took it away at three months. Now she's almost three and a habitual thumb sucker, and I think I would prefer breaking a passy habit than a thumb habit. You can't cut off thumbs....


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