Friday, 22 August 2014

My Like-Hate Relationship With The Soother

Before I had Paloma, I went out and bought a wubbanub, it's a soother with a little stuffed animal attached to it. I thought they were cute and gave it to her in the first couple days home from the hospital. She would only take it for a minute or so at a time and then spit it out. It was just enough to calm her down enough to stop her from crying. My midwife saw it in my house when she was here for a home visit and told me it's not a great idea to give soothers to brand new babies. She said sucking takes a lot of energy for them and she shouldn't waste her energy sucking on a soother instead of the breast. Especially because she had jaundice so we had to feed her all the time to clear that.
Day 3 of being a Mom. Tired.
Her jaundice cleared after a week, thanks to round the clock feedings. She surpassed her birth weight in 4 days and was obviously strong and healthy, but I decided that I didn't want to give her the soother anymore because offering the breast was more natural. While babies may be born with a strong need to suck, they don't need to suck on a man-made soother. I wanted to be the ultimate hippy Mom and every time I saw her with the soother in her mouth, that blue piece of plastic was screaming at me "What kind of hippy are you?!" My midwife told me to nurse her for comfort even if I had just fed her. I read about how African babies don't cry  and agreed with everything the article said. I spent 6 months working with kids & babies in Mozambique and not only did they not cry, but they didn't use soothers either! So I told Andino & my Mom "I don't want to use it anymore, please don't give it to her". I was determined to drop the soother before it became a habit.

While I admit that popping a soother in her mouth is easier than nursing her, it wasn't about that for me because I had no problem nursing her on the go in my wrap. The problem was my overabundant milk supply. She would be drowsy and need a bit of help to fall asleep and I wanted to peacefully nurse her off into dream land, but because of my overabundant milk supply and forceful letdown, it was like a torrential downpour of milk every time she sucked. She would cough, choke and lose her breath and get frustrated. Hardly conducive to sleep. Our experience nursing is definitely not the peaceful picture of mother and baby that I imagined it would be. It's actually quite loud and messy for us. So after attempting countless times over many weeks to nurse her to sleep, I would almost always have to give in and let her have the soother. She would suck on it for a minute or two and then fall asleep and I would remove it.

As she got older and bigger (she's so big!) I continued to try to take her soother away in favour of comfort nursing. I thought maybe my milk supply would even out (and it has definitely improved although there is still too much) and that she would be able to handle the flow better as she grew. I was as determined as ever to be the all-natural hippy Mom I had imagined I would be, and that image I had of myself did not include toting around a baby with a plastic soother sticking out of her mouth. But 3 months into my life as a Gypsy Mama, and somehow Paloma didn't get the memo that soothers are not for Gypsy babies. She still gets mad when I try to nurse her to sleep and she still chokes on my milk daily (but definitely not as often as in the first 2 months). There are times when she just wants to suck and she doesn't want milk. It's so obvious because she will be fine for the first few seconds and as soon as I feel my milk let down she starts to cry and pull off the breast. If I give in and let her have the soother she calms right down. 

So, at 12 weeks I am finally giving up my battle with the soother. I let her have it in the car seat because she hates it and also to help her drift off to sleep during nap times. I've never given it to her at night before bed and I've never let her actually sleep with the soother in her mouth. I just let her have it to drift off. She doesn't seem to need it while she's awake because she's a pretty happy baby (now that the period of purple crying has passed, but that's for another blog post). I have to admit that there are some benefits to the soother. It's easy to comfort nurse her at home, but it's a little different when we are out in public. And don't get me wrong, I am all for nursing in public if your baby needs it and I do it on a weekly basis myself, but it's just easier to giver her a soother while we are out in very public places and I know that she just wants a little suck, than to always whip my boob out. For example, just last week I was standing in line waiting to pay for my groceries and she started to fuss a little. I reached into my diaper bag and gave her the soother to prevent her from crying until I could get to the car to nurse her. It is so stressful to hear your baby cry and I can say without a doubt that allowing her to have the soother has prevented her from crying on many, many occasions when I wouldn't have been able to whip my boob out immediately or when I couldn't get to her because she's in the car seat.

I knew this would happen before I had her, but so much of what I was sure I was going to be like as a Mom has gone out the window after she arrived. And so much of what I thought I would be like has comes true. Like for me, I really wanted to wear my baby in gorgeous gypsy wraps and every time I do, I just love it so much. I need to start focusing on all the ways my dream of being a hippy, Gypsy Mama has come true instead of focusing on the one way it hasn't. As it turns out, maybe Gypsy Babies like soothers afterall :)


  1. This is going to sound strange, but the Beats were given Soothers in the NICU to help them learn how to suck. Being born premature, they hadn't developed that ability. I credit the Soothers for getting them out of NICU faster. A year later, we use them to help calm them when they are fussy in their car seats and to help calm them before bed. Will have to start weaning them from the Soothers soon (soon much change lately!!!), which makes me sad.

    As always, bravo for doing what works best and I fully support you embracing the Gypsy mama lifestyle.

    1. Wow that's so interesting the babies had to learn how to suck - another reason to like soothers! I hope you write a post about how it goes weaning them, I'd love to hear your experience.

      Thank you so much for your support, us women need to stick together!

    2. Yes, Yu was given a soother (a Phillips "wee" soothie" at the NICU) for the same reason, she needed to learn how to suck and swallow before she could come home to us. It was a necessary skill for breastfeeding.

      But, as a new to be mom I had read everything including the fundamentalist pro breastfeeding advice: "never, ever give a pacifier OR a bottle before 3 months, when breastfeeding has been established, otherwise babies get nipple confusion and they will not breastfeed".

      I really wanted to breastfeed and I did not want to let that go so fast . I had crying fits at the NICU with nurses and lactation experts reassuring me that for premature babies the rules were different, that she would breastfeed, that it'd be fine. (And, yes, it was fine, at 7 months, we are still breastfeeding... though she still gets everything she needs per feed from 1 side because I have so much milk).

      Then, when we were home and she had colic, my mom would use a pacifier to calm her down, telling me sometimes babies need to suck to calm down, and not necessarily the breast. And it was true for us, sometimes she wants to suck, but she refuses / fusses when she does not want the milk that comes with it. When the pediatrician finally told me that sucking is a need for babies I gave in.

      We got a couple bigger pacifiers that are the same as the one from the NICU, only adapted to her age, as it is the only type she will accept. We only use them to help her sleep, not every time, and to calm her down at certain moments. When she does not need it she spits it out herself, and if she really does not wants it, she even throws it. She never has the pacifier during awake / play time.

      So yes I went to a similar process while accepting that pacifiers could be a good aid in some situations and not a "vice" of doom as I was led to believe from some of the reading I did.

  2. I love it. They won't sleep without it and I must admit that it kept me sane those first crazy 6 weeks.

    1. Next baby I'm going for the soother sooner. I bet it would have been helpful when she was crying so much in those early weeks

  3. I also have a love/hate relationship with the pacifier. The nurses gave Kieran one when we were in the hospital to calm him when he had to get his heel pricked or his IV moved. I really didn't want him to have one, but it kept him calm during those procedures and kept my heart from breaking when he'd cry out in pain. Now we use it at home to settle him for bed and naps. My goal is to let him have it only for sleeping in the future, but like you, so many of the things I said I'd do/not do have flown out the window, so we'll see what happens!

  4. Everything changes when the baby actually arrives. We have to adapt to each other's personalities and new challenges. I say whatever works for both parties is okay with me. Some days I wished Sofia would just take the soother, we tried and tried but we just ended up with a more frustrated baby, louder baby!

    I agree, hearing your own baby cry is the worst feeling in the world!

  5. It sounds like you're not using it too often- I wouldn't worry about it! I use mine to help Molly fall asleep, especially in the car, and then it usually pops out without ten minutes. Hey... anything in moderation is usually fine.

  6. My girls also got them in the NICU. They didn't know how to suck and got much of their food by tube so that helped them learn.
    While I don't have a problem with pacifiers (we also have the wubbanubs), I did worry about them being too dependent on them. I have known several toddlers who walk around with one constantly in their mouth and are always demanding them, including my 1 year old niece. So far, we haven't had that problem. We stopped using them in the crib except when they are just out of control upset or having teething pain and we have tried everything else. They are so helpful in calming them and they love it when we give them the pacifiers (or if they find one on the floor. score!) but they also seem to be fine without them. Out of sight, out of mind so far. I hope it stays that way. It might help that they only usually get them when they are super upset or in the car seats so it might not occur to them to have the pacifiers anywhere else. I wouldn't worry about it. If it calms her down, it's all good, right?

  7. Izzy never really took to a pacifier but likes to chew on them now while she is teething. My ped said early on that babies have a need to suck- not just when they are hungry- so I was okay giving her one. Plus it's easier to take away a pacifier than a thumb!

  8. I didn't want E to have one for the first month or so... but then I read they decrease the SIDS risk.... and I thought I preferred pacifier to thumb sucking. She wouldn't take one for the first 2-3 months though. But she would suck on our pinky finger! She eventually started like one brand & now she uses them at bedtime and for naps. I only give it to her when she's tired. She's in the 96%ile for weight-- if I just nursed her every time she wanted to suck, she'd be way off the charts!
    I think it's OK to modify our expectations a bit. You never know what your child will need until you meet her!


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