Thinking of life without a pacifier costs mom sleep, too

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They wouldn't give us one at that hospital. Sure, they had receiving blankets for swaddling and plenty of diapers for our son's newborn bottom and a medieval breast pump on hand to assure he was not going to be one of those formula-fed babies.

But pacifiers, those simple little plugs that have been around in various incarnations for more than a century, were off-limits. Something about bonding. Or was it this fear he would get confused and prefer plastic and rubber to his mother when mealtime came? Who remembers? All I know is that they saw a baby who wanted to suck, day and night, and suggested we offer him a finger.

Trapped in the hospital for days, we begged for a pacifier. And begged. They finally gave in -- and told us we could purchase one in the gift shop.

My husband was dispatched immediately.

He returned with this old-fashioned pink and green model. It was nothing at all like the fancy ones -- in bright colors and funky shapes -- that I had waiting for us at home. But it did the trick.

We slid it into Baby Jake's mouth. And, finally, he was soothed.

It became a lifeline. He slept best when he had his binky. A crying jag could be halted with a binky. Every little problem was fixed with his new little friend.

When you're a new mom, you're just bombarded with advice, whether you ask for it or not. So many people seemed to know better: No binky, they'd scold. You're a bad parent was the message I'd get, a lazy parent.

Don't you know kids with pacifiers get more ear infections? Don't you know pacifiers can lead to speech problems? Or even sleep troubles down the road? But this was one rule I had to break -- Jake was a happy baby (thank you, binky) and when the baby's happy, everybody's happy.

Inside the church at my brother-in-law's wedding, my husband's grandmother told me over and over how much she hated the pacifier, how her children didn't use them, how foolish they look. So I took the red and gold pacifier out and 3-month-old Jake started to scream, his cries amplified in the sanctuary. I put the binky back. He stopped. She got the point.

The pediatrician isn't exactly a pacifier pusher either. He told me that Jake should stop using his while he was awake after he turned 6 months old, and that I should take it away altogether by the age of 1. I complied with the former.

It's the latter I am having trouble with. Still.

It's just that I have fallen deeply in love with the binky. Jake is a world-class sleeper, mostly because of that binky, I'm afraid. Whenever I tiptoe in to check on him, there he is, sucking away. When he cries at night, all it takes to make him feel better -- nine times out of 10, at least -- is to return the binky to its rightful place.

The binky is becoming my best friend and ally.

And Jake, now 2, adores his binky, too. He asks for it by name now, announcing "Binky Time" when it's time to go to bed. And he cheerfully surrenders it every morning -- "Here you go, Mommy," he announces and hands it right over when I come in to get him at the start of a new day.

(Headlines last fall, with Jake well into his second year of life, brought me a little vindication -- or maybe just erased a little of that plentiful new-mom guilt. The American Association of Pediatrics actually announced that pacifiers might limit babies' risk for the still-mysterious Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)

Still, time is running out. All the experts -- or at least the ones I have consulted on the Web -- say he must break his (nasty) binky habit by age 3 or risk long-term dental damage. I hear them. I will comply.

But I am dreading it. How will I get rid of the secret stash I keep on hand for middle-of-the-night emergencies when the favored binky falls behind the crib? (I had to hide the spares a few months back because when there were five of them sitting on his bookcase, choosing the right one often sparked a tantrum).

My husband keeps asking when it will be time to go cold turkey on the binky. I keep stalling.

I think it's going to be as hard on me as it will be on Jake.

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