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Aug 16, 2009

19-month old baby & pacifier: one step forward or one step back?

Our 19-month old baby has always loved his pacifier(s). In the early days (as soon as 5 days old), we felt that it was a good relief since he would be able to calm his newborn emotions quickly as soon as we gave him the pacifier. We also thought that, by using the pacifier, Daniel would avoid sucking his finger with all the advantages that this represents.
Over time, the pacifier became one of the most important objects in Daniel's life: one of the first 5 words he learned to speak ("tetine" in French), and the only cuddle object he would want when going to sleep (except that he needs 4-5 at the same time, since he needs to have some in his hands as well to fall asleep). We tried replacing the pacifier with teddy bears, cuddle blankets, etc... without success.

Over the last several months, we had managed to limit the use of the pacifier to the sleeping time. Daniel was only allowed the pacifier in his crib, and he understands that he needs to leave the pacifier behind when getting up. We were moving towards the right direction.
Interestingly, over the last few weeks, Daniel has started to ask for his pacifier during the day again. He is even ready to go back to his crib outside of his sleeping times, just to be able to get the comfort of his pacifier. He never falls asleep, just rolls happily in his crib, talking to himself and playing with the many pacifiers around him. He is usually ready to get out of bed after 10 minutes, but this happens 4-5 times a day!

This is a little bit of a concern for us. Are we moving backward?
We asked Daniel's daycare providers if they had seen a similar behavior at daycare. They confirmed the trend. While the cots they use for nap are not available outside of nap time, Daniel now asks for his pacifier during the day and he proactively goes to rest on a pillow with it.
Daniel's teachers are not too worried so far, though. They observed that Daniel only asks for his pacifier when he is upset and when he needs to calm down. This is true at home too. Their explanation is that Daniel is developing self-awareness and that he knows that his pacifier is a tool for him to get over his emotions. Instead of throwing tantrums, he might just ask for his pacifiers to process frustrations.
This is a neat explanation, and I hope it is correct. This would mean progress, right? It would be great if this phase with the pacifier was a replacement to the tantrum phase for Daniel. I am not eager to experience tantrums, although we have seen a few of them already. We probably won't be able to avoid it alltogether.

In any case, what I really hope is that, as soon as Daniel has gotten better at processing frustration, he might be able to stop using pacifiers. This would be great. Wondering how long we have to wait?

Has anyone else experience the same toddler behavior? How did you handle it?


  1. I think we are going to experience the same thing soon, except it's not the pacifier, it's D's thumb. I remember thinking: finally, she learned how to suck her thumb! And soon she was able to communicate when she was tired and hungry to us by sucking her thumb. I also notice she sucks on it when she's upset or stressed out over something. But I'm afraid that we're going to have to take drastic measures if she doesn't outgrow this behavior, like sprinking hot chili powder on her thumb (which is what my mom did to my brother and me)! Alas, I just try to remember that this too, shall pass...

  2. hallo isabelle . i was born and raised in Greece. I have a 19 month old son who is too in love with his pacifiers . I am also fluent in three languages english , german and italian. I am also trying to make my son fluent in english . I speak to him only in english . My name is Ioanna and i would love to talk with you about the difficulties of raising a bilingual child.

  3. Hi Ioanna,

    Thanks for visiting and for your note. I would love to share experiences on raising bilingual kids. Sounds like you are in a similar situation as me. Do you have a blog? If not, feel free to contact me over email at isabelle AT isabelles DOT net. Thanks