How Normal Are Pacifiers?

Author: Rita Brhel

“He’s using you as a pacifier!”

I thought I was the only one who regularly heard this when someone noticed that I breastfed my babies to sleep until I read it in a list among the annoying things breastfeeding women commonly hear in La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

When did a pacifier—a piece of plastic—become more normal than a woman’s own breast in raising children?

We, in Western society, have gotten off track. Somewhere between formula companies seizing the infant-feeding advice after World War II and women finally being allowed to vote and women enjoying the newfound freedoms that they can contribute as much as men can in the workforce, women began to lose the age-old wisdom of raising children. Despite the fact that we are biologically designed to comfort-nurse a child to sleep or as a way to cope with discomfort, what comes to mind as normal is a child sucking on a pacifier or his thumb or stroking a stuffed animal, blanket, or another lovey object.

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That’s not normal.

Well, I guess it depends on your definition of normal. When it comes down to caring for our babies, we can consider whether we define normal as what is biologically normal or we define normal as what is societally common.

If what is normal is what is common in our society, then you probably don’t see what the big deal is with Cesarean sections or formula-feeding or infant sleep-training or spanking and ignoring our children as a way to discipline. You’re probably not doing the research into these childrearing techniques, either, because if you did, you’d have to admit that to knowingly choose these societally common parenting strategies—without special circumstances or no other choice—is to knowingly choose parenting practices that are not in the best interest of your child, or yourself.

Breastfeeding is the biological norm. Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for your baby. Breastfeeding is far superior to formula, which is artificial breast milk or human milk replacer. Formula is not breast milk. It’s not even close. If your dog or cat was to have babies, and one of those babies needed to be fed formula for some reason, that puppy or kitten would not be nearly as healthy or growing as well as his littermates. It’s just a fact. Formula does not have everything a baby needs. Breast milk does.

In the same respect, breastfeeding is about more than feeding your baby. A baby is biologically designed to breastfeed, not bottle-feed breast milk. The reason isn’t sheer convenience and inexpensiveness. The reason is that babies biologically need Mom’s presence to develop normally.

Babies need pacifiers when they are not getting their biological sucking needs from breastfeeding on demand. Babies don’t need to comfort-nurse because there are no pacifiers. When we think of which came first—breastfeeding or the pacifier—most definitely, breastfeeding came first. Pacifiers cannot substitute for moms adequately. They do not look like her, feel like her, smell like her, love like her. There are no hormonal exchanges between pacifiers and babies like there are between mothers and babies. These hormonal exchanges are biologically normal and biologically designed to develop a close bond between Mom and Baby and to begin normal development in Baby. A pacifier can’t do that, so how normal does that make it?

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