My Marriage Survived the Great Pacifier Debate of 2018

Every couple has those arguments. This was ours.

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After my twin sons’ first birthday, I made it my mission to eliminate what I saw as one of my biggest enemies: their pacifiers. I wanted to wean them off the things before they got too attached. I was worried that usage would lead to dental problems and ear issues. And, if I’m being honest, I was paranoid that they’d become the weird older kids who still used pacifiers. I was wrong on most accounts.

But while I was ready to ditch them, my wife had other plans.“It’s not a big deal, every kid uses them,” she told me. In my mind, it sounded like an excuse an addict would make. They started daycare at about six months old so they already had limited pacifier use (the school doesn’t really allow them). And we’d only give it to them periodically, at times when they woke up unhappily or were being put down for a nap. That’s not a lot, she contended.

I agreed. But we had some occasional bad habits. When the kids woke up before 5:30, for instance, we’d give them pacifiers to get them to sleep in a few more minutes so we could get a few more minutes ourselves. I knew, and still know, that this was a horrible habit to form. But at 5:30 in the morning, all I wanted to do is get back to sleep.

I relented to my wife, however, and our occasional pacifier use continued. With limited use at school, I contested, we’d try to continue to reduce their dependency on them at home. My wife agreed in principle. But I still worried about the repercussions of allowing them to continue using pacifiers, even occasionally. My mind got the best of me. I worried inability to cut their dependency would result in them growing up without impulse control or worse. Most of all, I felt that without giving them up, the boys would never learn to self-soothe and regulate their own emotions.

 But I still worried about the repercussions of allowing them to continue using pacifiers, even occasionally. My mind got the best of me.

We needed to get rid of these things now! I imposed a draconian rule: by their second birthday, the boys needed to be rid of them. Otherwise, they’d still be using them when they turn 30. My wife said no and thought I was crazy on all of these accounts. While she indulged me on trying to limit use, she didn’t agree that the situation was dire. She never forced the issue. The pacifiers remained.

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Ours was a conflict of approaches. So, in order to try to sway her to my side, I decided to get some cold, hard facts to prove why they needed to be weaned off immediately or we’d end up with weirdos.

It didn’t go quite according to plan. I found that as long as they aren’t constantly taking pacifiers and sucking, the health risks and emotional risks are very limited. I also found that, while doctors do recommend reducing usage by six-months to reduce the likelihood of dental issues like teeth forming poorly, and ear infections from the constant sucking, as long as children are using them less than a few hours a day, these risks are very low. More so, while doctors do encourage breaking the habit for children by two, the long-term negative effects don’t really appear unless children are still using them at four —  a far cry from the timing I was worried about.

Our prolonged pacifier war was a great learning opportunity for my wife and I to come together as parents and compromise on differing opinions.

Basically, it turned out my wife was right. My pacifier battle was waged on false grounds. But this taught me that my wife and I need to compromise to be better parents. While I realized my draconian approach of quitting cold turkey wasn’t necessary or likely to be successful, there were still benefits to reducing use and making that use more exceptional than habitual.

So, instead of trying to get rid of them, I worked with my wife to make sure we tried numerous other alternatives first when either child got fussy. Sometimes we try to distract them together. We found music to be a great replacement with family sing-alongs providing enough entertainment to forget about their binkys. On weekends, when the boys get cranky before taking a nap, instead of handing over the pacifiers, we let them wave out the window for long minutes or take a book to bed instead. It doesn’t always work, but it has at least reduced the times we did hand over pacifiers. 

Our prolonged pacifier war was a great learning opportunity for my wife and I to come together as parents and compromise on differing opinions. Instead of going against each other or having inconsistent approaches with frustrated the boys, we eventually came up with a strategy together that we could both get behind and support each other. We haven’t eliminated it yet, but we’ve still got two years more than I originally thought so I know we’ll get there. Sometimes it’s important to understand that the outcome you fear needs to be averted slowly, that little adjustments day-by-day are the key to averting what you think are battles that need to be won immediately.