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Monday, September 21, 2009

How to Stop Your Kid from Sucking a Pacifier, Sucking a Bottle, Sucking a Thumb, Sucking on your Boob, etc. etc. etc.

Written by Lee

So yes. I was scared as hell to become a mother. 

But despite my deep-seeded fear that God did not cut me out of mother-making material, I couldn't quite embrace the loads of parenting books that new mamas sometimes like to sink their insecure teeth into.  All the words I read as I tried to at least make it through the good ol' standards "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "What to Expect the First Year" were just that....words.  Words that were just not doing the trick for me.  Words that were not sinking in. Words that just kept bouncing off my brain and back onto the page.  I'm sure there were plenty of good words in there somewhere.  These words were simply not resonating within me.  

And even though I am the first person to admit my weaknesses as a mama (hell, the whole reason this blog was created was because of my struggles in the mothering arena) I think that turning away from parenting books in general was actually an early sign of the kind of mother I was going to be.  And it reflects what I believe to be one of my greatest strengths as a person and it has ultimately saved my ass on this journey of mothering.

And that strength is the ability to listen to and to trust my inner voice.  Me.  My gut.

And in the upside-down whirldom of motherhood, the gut is pretty damn powerful.  And it's the one thing I think that's gotten buried in the midst of modern mama information overload.  And that's not to say that there is not some extremely worthwhile and essential information out there. Sure there is. There's simply too much of it.  

So my defense to information overload is to block out the chatter and look within.  The answer usually lies there.  For me.  And for my kids.  

And isn't that all that really matters?

Claire, my oldest, loved her pacifier deep and true. And as she got older, her "paci" needs grew. From one to three. One for the mouth, one to hold under her nose to uh, smell, and one to hold in one hand and squeeze between her fingers.  By the time she was two-years-old, she needed ALL of them to put her to sleep.  And holy shit, you can imagine the chaos that ensued if for some reason, one of the three was missing.  

By the time Claire hit three, many of my friends around me with kids the same age were starting the "pacifier removal" process. And some friends who had older kids would tell me what they did to get rid of the pacifier so to help Claire and I in our sure-to-be painful journey of pacifier riddance.  I observed, and listened, but in my gut, I heard, "What's the big deal? She surely won't be sucking a pacifier forever."  

So I let it go.  I let the pacifier trinity that was Claire's soothing system reign. And I didn't worry about it.  

And one day when Claire was a little over 5-years-old, I brought her pacifiers to her at bedtime like I had done a thousand times before and she said simply "I don't need them anymore. I'm done." 

And she was. 

And I left the room with her pacifiers in my hand and I cried.  'Cause it happened so damn fast. It was over.  

A topic that had literally consumed friends of mine and one that will consume many more mothers I am sure.  Gone.  In a flash.  With no warning.  No signs. She was bigger all of a sudden.  And she knew it was time.

And I'm not saying I'm a hero for letting it all happen that way.  I'm just saying that I think we need to remember that listening to our guts and not to everyone else who surely has a reason why MY kid needs to stop sucking her pacifiers.  

I think I am most successful as a mother when I listen to my inner voice and let go.  And usually what happens next is what's supposed to happen. The organic path.  I truly believe that.  

It's all of the plotting and stomping and and tricking and battling and reasoning and talking and pleading and bargaining and negotiating that I think is nuts. Especially when it comes to emotional matters for kids. Like sucking things. That sucking stuff is personal. It's intimate. It's comforting. It's expression. It's need.

I know there will be plenty of people who might very well make all kinds of arguments as to why I'm crazy for letting this sucking stuff take its natural course.  And I welcome those arguments of course.  I simply would like to present this as food for thought...

... "We're over-thinking it." 

Being a mother has been the most single most surprising experience of my life and it never stops with its shock value.  In many ways, I am the kind of mother I never thought I would be. Like I'm a mother of a 25-month-old little dude who is not too interested in stopping nursing. I never thought I would be "that mom." But I am. And I'm listening to my gut on this one too.

One day sometime soon, sooner than I would like, he will tell me in his own way that he doesn't need it anymore. He's done. 

And despite the people around me who I'm sure have their own thoughts about my nursing a 2-year-old, I will probably cry when it's over.  'Cause it will all have ended so. damn. fast.

So how do you stop a kid from sucking the stuff he or she loves and craves to suck on?  I say, in most instances, let it go.  The sucking is gonna stop.  It really will.  That's what my gut tells me. And it hasn't let me down so far.


  1. Way to go, Lee!

    I remember being at a moms group and the topic was "parenting books." I came empty handed. When it got to me, I said, "I don't read books. I parent from my gut." I think there were some women who never talked to me again.

  2. I actually lied to the dentist at Youngest's last cleaning - they gave him a stuffed animal and a certificate, and everything for giving up his paci. Suckers (oops, no pun intended)

    He's 3 1/2 and LOVES his "ma," why would I want to take that away from him because supposedly his teeth are going to be a mess? I wore braces for 3 years, this kid has no chance anyway.

    I'm going to embrace your advice when it comes to my potty training stress as well. I've had enough. He's had enough.

    As far as the "too fast" thing - oh how I felt that this weekend. Suddenly he seems so old - with not another one to fill that slot, I'm quite sad - that chapter has officially ended.

    You keep nursing that angel!!! Go mama!

  3. Isn't there some kind of cardinal, not-to-be-messed-with, set in stone rule that children are done with sucking at 3 and potty trained by 3 and 2 weeks (the extra 2 weeks is a "grace-period" for those slow ones who just don't get it). Right? This is written somewhere, right? and when it is written, its gold, right? And if your 3 yr old is not on track with the plan, well be ready for fellow parental judgement and maybe not so welcome advice!

    Whew! Should we have a book burning?

    How did we get this way, people? Thanks for the dose of reality, Lee - a reality that would make all of our lives SO much more peaceful, if we'd embrace it.

  4. Ha! Just kidding about the book burning, folks - there is A LOT Of much needed help in these books, I used Dr. Sears "Parenting" ALL THE TIME when my first was 0-3-ish.

  5. what about when your kid just sucks? then what?

  6. Kids know and they will let you know. You are right, you know. ;)

  7. Great post Lee...I share some of the same thoughts...I used those books, but only as a resource..when I felt like too much information was thrown at the end I just went with my gut. Heck my 2 1/2 year old would probably still have her "paci or nuk" if WE hadn't lost the darn thing. ( I actully washed it, and by the time I found it, she was coping well with life, so I let it be.) She does however carry a "dede" (blanket) around like linus...I have no problem with this, you never know when you might get cold. Plus I had to work full time, she needed something to keep her secure. Now that I am at home, she doesn't need it as much.
    Maybe we should just start a new revolution on just going with your gut..seems to be the kids are happier and more confident, wouldn't you agree? Have a great day!

  8. loved the post- i have a stack of books i bought when i found out i was preggo and never finished a one of them. i was starting to feel guilty about that with only 10 weeks until he gets here- i sure do hope my 'gut' works!!! :)

  9. everything you say always makes so much damn sense. and i guess that may be one reason going with your gut works so well... you have a good gut.

    you already know that i TOTALLY agree with you on this. i do think it is even worse now than it was when my guys were little. there was no google. there were no new mom forums. and those things are very good tools, but i think they also cause information overload and send mixed signals and can end up intimidating/stressing out moms that only want to do the 'right' thing.

  10. Oh, I'm a firm believer in the gut theory. Hands down. I think (good) parenting books definitley have their purpose but the ultimate decision on ANY child issue has to rest with your inner voice. A Mama just KNOWS.

    That said, we are in the process of getting my 7-year old to stop thumb sucking. Part of me wants to just let it go, but those front teeth are starting to stick straight.out. Yikes.

    My compromise? I bought a "Thumb Guard" for around....SEVENTY (yep, 70) dollars on line. It's working. He'll occasionally still suck with it on but tells me, "Mom, it's just not as satisfying." (sigh)

    Oh well, $70 is cheaper than orthodontics :-(

  11. Go with your gut girl! I would say this applies to most issues (except when your husband buys a motorcycle).

    You know I got both my kids to stop sucking, but both were SUPER easy. There was no negociating or pleading. We did the chart with my son, and he stopped sucking - no problem. And ... there was no book necessary.

    The only thing I've heard about sucking the boob, is it might be time to stop when your son starts inviting his friends over for lunch ... I know corny. Sorry.

  12. My thoughts exactly. I just love you more and more all the time. Maybe it's wrong to love someone for being like yourself? hmmm.

    Well, I'm not going to over-think it. Cause I know in my gut I love you for you :)

  13. oh mommy guilt never goes away does it?
    my daughter has a similar issue and this is a big one - sleeping in her own bed - she's much older.....not a baby anymore - so
    i say I will let this one be one of those gut things too

  14. Good for you! I commend you.
    I'm there on a whole lot of levels, but the paci, I just chucked at 15 months and let the kids deal with it. They were good to go within a couple days. The lovies are what may take, well, marriage.

  15. Word. I read a lot when I hadn't yet learned that the gut knew what it was doing.

  16. I need to channel more of you and of Heather. I get stressed out by trying to do the "right thing"

    Even though I've learned to go with my gut, the stress and guilt are still there.

    I admire you guys. A lot.

  17. I wanna high five you on this one! If you only knew how much.

    I am passionate about this topic...taking away anything that makes a child feel calm and secure? Be it a binkie, a blankie, whatever. They need whatever it is that makes them feel safe for as long as it takes. Don't even get me started on potty training.

    I hope this comment makes sense. I am so busy jumping on my couch it's hard to type, yet alone be coherent. ;)

  18. Yep...I sweated the fact that Miss Peach resisted potty training. All the way up to the first day of preschool. I picked her up and asked her if she needed to go...she said "Nope, I went at school" No problem. They go when they are ready;)


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