“When are you going to get rid of the pacifier?” That’s the third most frequent question I get asked about Harlow. The first two questions are “How old is that little munchkin?” and “Where did she get those fabulous sunglasses?”
Answer #1: 23 months
Answer #2: I have no idea. They just seem to show up on her face.
The answer to that pacifier question? Until a few days ago, it was always— “We’re working on it.”
Over the past 23 months, Harlow’s pacifier has almost become part of her face. As much an identifying feature as her big eyes and serious brows. If you follow me on Instagram, you see Harlow sucking on that thing in way more photos than not.
A few months ago, I made a plan to only let Harlow use the pacifier while she sleeps— two naps a day and overnight.
Then over the summer, that extended to “while in the car” and then it all fell apart from there.
Instead of Harlow getting closer to giving up her pacifier, she starting asking for two at once. As if we were going through a pacifier shortage and she had to make sure she was properly prepared.
At bedtime, she wanted every pacifier she could find. She’s have one in her mouth and one in each hand and then see a spare on the counter and scream for that one too.
ME: But you already have a pacifier.
ME: In fact, you have three pacifiers.
I’m embarrassed to say, we usually gave it to her. Because….. It’s Harlow. Her persistence is so freakin’ cute. I find it almost impossible to say “no”, in a way I never felt with Mazzy. I think it’s because I still think of her as a baby.
Even Mazzy calls me out for this when they get into fights over toys and utensils and things.
MAZZY: Harlow! It’s my pink spoon!
ME: Just let Harlow have it, Mazzy.
MAZZY: WHY? IT’S MINE!!!!!
ME: Because Harlow’s a baby. She doesn’t know any better.
MAZZY: Harlow’s not a baby, Mom. SHE’S A TODDLER!!!
Even though Harlow was stocking up pacifiers for emergencies at night, she became pretty good about giving up her pacifier during the day. It was like a little game. She would always refuse to hand it over initially, but if I put on my most encouraging smile and said, “You don’t need your pacifier, Harlow! You don’t need it!” Then she’d take a moment to think before handing it over and proudly shouting “I did it!”
The hardest time to get Harlow’s pacifier out of her mouth was when she just woke up. I didn’t want to grab it away when she was groggily transitioning from night to day. But sometimes, that transition time stretched from a few minutes to an entire morning. She’d seem content and I didn’t want to ruin things.
In these moments, Mazzy would again call me out for not making Harlow play by the rules.
MAZZY: MOM!!!! Harlow has her paci!
ME: It’s okay. Just leave her.
But Mazzy isn’t as easygoing as me.
MAZZY: Harlow. You’re not supposed to use your paci now.
Then Mazzy would often employ her own pacifier retrieving techniques, handing over Harlow’s pacifier triumphantly with a look in her eye that said, “You couldn’t do the job so I did it for you.”
She swore saying “Paci Cheerio” would make Harlow hand it over without a fight. I watched her do this numerous times and it worked, as if parenting is as easy as reciting a magic word and I failed to see I was creating my own problems.
A few weeks ago, I realized we were running out of pacifiers. I wasn’t sure where they were disappearing but figured, when we ran out, I’d just tell Harlow we had no more left and she had to deal.
That’s what happened in the middle of last week at bedtime.
Harlow had one right before bed, but somewhere between sitting on my lap for a story and going into her crib, she lost it. I checked the floor and looked to see if we had an extra nearby, but we did not. Instead of getting frantic, I just explained to Harlow that she’d have to sleep without one.
She was surprisingly okay with it.
Maybe that’s the end of it? I thought.
But the next morning when I came in to take Harlow out of her crib, she was standing there with her paci firmly planted in her mouth.
I was confused for a moment but then I realized— this is the emergency Harlow has been preparing for! She resorted to her stockpile!
I searched the crib and found two more pacifiers lodged between the mattress and the wall.
The next night I decided to put her to sleep without it again. She went to bed without a fuss but then began screaming “PACI!!!!!!!!!” after I left the room.
I guess she noticed I cleared out her stash.
I stuck to my guns and eventually she stopped screaming and went to bed.
But, the next day I went to work and our nanny came to take care of Harlow during the day. I forgot to tell her about this latest development, so Harlow was given a pacifier during nap time.
LESSON: Always make sure all caretakers (dads, grandparents, sitters) are in on the plan!
That night Harlow went NUTS when I made her go to bed without the pacifier. But there was no turning back. After a few minutes of screaming (not crying, mind you, just angry yelling), she fell asleep. I told our nanny the next morning that Harlow had slept three nights in a row without her pacifier. Then we hid all the pacifiers in the back of the kitchen cabinet and that was the end of that.
It’s been one week.
Harlow found a pacifier in my bag and got upset when I took it away, but other than that— Harlow hasn’t asked for her pacifier and we haven’t volunteered it.
It was a slow transition with many stops and starts, but as with most parenting initiatives, I find once you stick to the plan, it works way easier than you were expecting. Harlow had a tough time giving up her pacifier because we had a tough time not giving it to her.
As soon as we were ready, so was she.
Babies can be pretty resilient.
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