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Cutting the Pacifier Crutch

Anna is crying right now.

I hate it when she cries, although it happens often. I’m sitting in the living room, trying to zone out the noise, just as I did almost a year and a half ago, when we first let her cry it out at naps and bedtime.

Then, we let her cry because she was waking up four or five times a night and, frankly, with a toddler under 2 in the house, as well, it just had to stop. We gave her a pacifier and prayed. She caught on pretty quickly, though, and was sleeping eight hours straight after only a night or two.

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Anna’s pacifier habit started early.

I’m hoping that this time is the same way.

We’re letting her cry it out now because we’re weaning her off the pacifier, the crutch I’ve been using since we let her cry it out when she was only 5 months old. When she was a baby, our system went something like this: Anna would start crying, and I’d pop the pacifier in her mouth. It really didn’t matter why she was crying; the pacifier always soothed her.

Her first year went by fairly smoothly; as smoothly, I guess, as the first year can when you have a toddler not even a year and a half older. But then Anna turned 1, and things got harder. She started getting teeth, and she’d whine. She developed a fierce attachment to me, so that whenever I left the room, she’d whine. If anyone else tried to hold her, she’d whine.

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Here she is last Halloween, dressed as the well-known pacifier-sucking owl.

For the past year, whenever Anna’s whined, I’ve played a game called, “Anna, where’s your pacifier?” She comes toward me with arms outstretched, her face red and blotchy and eyes dotted with tears, and I quickly counter with, “Anna, where’s your pacifier? Go find it, honey. It’s in the other room.”

So, it’s probably more my fault that Anna became increasingly dependent on her pacifiers. It got to the point where she’d have to have one in her mouth at all times, and we’d have to perform a little ritual each time we got out of the car where we put the pacifier in the cup holder and said goodbye.

But Anna’s still not talking very much. And I knew it was time to pull the plug on the pacifier crutch.

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Play time usually involved a pacifier for a long stretch there.

I did it Sunday, and I didn’t just yank them as I did with Brayden. He was much less dependent on his, though, and only used them when he was sleeping, not around the clock like Anna. I cut the tops off of her pacifiers, then, when she whined for them, I handed them to her and said, “Here you go.”

Kevin thought it was mean.

“I know, sweetie. It is sad,” he’d say consolingly to her when she grew frustrated trying to catch the thing in her teeth.

She’d shove it in and it would fall back out. She’d angrily grab it off the floor and shove it back into her mouth, only to have it fall back out.

I admit, it was hard to watch. But I believe then as I believe now that it’s for the best. And Kevin now agrees with me, too.

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Security at the ready: her pacifier and bunny loveys

It only took an hour or so on Sunday for Anna to just give up on the pacifier and chuck it when she wasn’t in her crib, which has freed her mouth up considerably for more talking and laughing. I was so worried that she would be whining and crying, but that just hasn’t been the case. She’s been happy, she’s been talking, she’s been a joy.

Sleeping is another story, as it often is. Naptime has been a bit rough. I’ll give her her chopped pacifiers, lay her in her crib and say, “I love you, Anna. Have a good nap,” and the second I close the door, she’s angrily screaming. (If she were using words, I like to imagine they’d be something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me, Mom? Where are the good pacifiers? You can’t give me these and expect me to sleep!”) It only lasts for fives minutes or so, though, and then she falls asleep.

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So much better without it…

Bedtime has been similar, but she doesn’t cry nearly as much then. She gets angry for a minute or two, then falls asleep and sleeps through the night. (Thank goodness!) And, when I go to get her in the mornings and after naptime, I’ve found her cut-up pacifiers lying on the floor next to her crib, forgotten security blankets she no longer needs.

I do feel bad that I’m the reason Anna’s having to suffer right now, but I figure we now have a little more than a month before she turns 2, which leaves us ample time to break out the flash cards and do some major cramming so she’s talking more before her 2-year appointment. (I’m mostly kidding.)

And maybe, eventually, the crying and the whining will be nothing more than a distant memory. Like the cut-up pacifiers now lying on the floor next to her crib, forgotten security blankets she no longer needs.

 

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